Khaki TV

Gen Musharraf Bol TV Gen Musharraf who had tightened the noose on journalists at one time, is also often credited with granting the media the freedom that allowed it to grow into what we have today. However, like many things in Pakistan, there is more to media ‘freedom’ than first meets the eye. Actually, the claim that Musharraf himself freed the media came from none other than the general himself, and was mocked in the international media at the time. Even Moeed Pirzada once admitted that ‘a carefully-created perception of free media inside Pakistan helped the military dictator to market himself’. Despite being exposed in the international press, the strategy worked better than could ever have been dreamed at home and led to the rise of an entire industry of Army/ISI media proxies. Now it looks like that strategy is coming into its latest phase.

Ever since becoming ‘free’, media has seen the likes of Ahmed Quraishi and Zaid Hamid whose journalistic credentials were less important than their talking points. Mainstream anchors have also raised questions about media independence as certain well known voices are widely considered as Army mouthpieces, and those who dare question or criticise GHQ are silenced with threats or worse. It is a coincidence that in this era of ‘media freedom’, this is the quality of ‘journalism’ we are subjected to?

Waj bro will soon have competition, though, from a new media personality even closer to GHQ: The ex-dictator himself. Gen Musharraf has announced that he is joining none other than Bol TV (yes, the same channel that has long been rumoured to be an ISI front). It is more accurate to say that Gen Musharraf is returning to TV since he has played this role before.

Gen Musharraf PTV coup

At a time when whole world is trying to solve the problem of ‘fake news’, Pakistan media is doubling down on the strategy of ‘a carefully-created perception of free media’ to market the Army to itself. Now they will even be joined by the founder of this strategy himself.

Ayyan Ali and Ahmed Quraishi

Ayyan Ali’s appearance at University of Karachi drew a lot of laughs on social media, though the poor students who invited her are hardly laughing after being served notices by the University administration. There is nothing wrong with having a laugh at celebrities, though, and the appearance of a celebrity is not really indicative of the quality of studies at an institution, especially when she was invited on the behest of students who are young and probably don’t know any better. So why am I bringing this up? Because I am curious why such a hue and cry is made over Ayyan Ali while other celebrity appearances which are much more insidious are let to pass without comment.

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Pulling the Plug: Is the Era of Media Freedom Over?

TV off air

The historical irony that a military dictator ushered in an era of journalistic freedom has not gone unnoticed. Gen Musharraf unleashed the media dogs, and the media dogs bit him squarely. For the next few years, the media served a purpose, though, keeping check on our new democracy by showing no restraint against any civilian politician. But as the curtain begins to close on Pakistani democracy, the era of media freedom too appears to be drawing to a close.

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Media Its Own Worst Enemy

Mubashir Luqman PTI dharna

Raza Rumi’s latest piece is a must read for anyone concerned with the direction of the country, particularly those who believe that a free and independent media is a fundamental necessity. He begins with a troubling report on the Association of Physicians of Pakistani Descent in North America (APPNA) convention held in Washington, DC where wealthy Pakistani-American professionals and journalists trashed democracy and even recommended Pakistan to join an Islamic Caliphate (all while they live comfortably in America, no doubt). But this is an issue for another post. First let us deal with the issue of journalists trashing democracy and blurring the lines between reporting on events and influencing events.

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Media Malika-e-Jazbaatis

Knowing that Sana Bucha is one of my favourite TV anchors, my mother sent me a link to Maheen Ghani’s interview with Sana Bucha for Newsline Magazine. As a young woman who aspires to have an impact on the world, I see her as something of a role model. Yes, I read the fashion and entertainment news also, but what inspires me about Sana is that she reports on serious topics and does not allow herself to be limited by gender stereotypes. I was excited to read the interview, but while I was reading it, my heart sank. Not because of what Sana said, but because of what Maheen asked.

Sana did a great job of explaining that professional and successful women are not some Western creation, either, but come from all parts of society. She also explained that just because talk shows were mostly hosted by men, she did not accept that it was out of her reach to be a successful host herself only because she is a woman.

I have never really thought ‘I’m not a man, therefore, I can’t do something.’ Actually, in our society, there are many fields more dominated by women than men. There is a perception, for example, that modelling is a women’s profession, not a man’s.

As I said, the interview was inspiring me. But then the question came that made my heart sink.

Q: You have covered some extremely emotional stories like the one on the Sialkot lynching. Being a woman anchor, was it difficult for you to hold your emotions in check or did you manage to keep your cool?

Being a woman anchor…? Why would it be any more difficult for a woman anchor to hold back her emotions or manage to keep her cool than a man anchor? In the midst of an inspiring interview about how women can break down the barriers of sexism, up comes an age old sexist stereotype that women are “emotional” and can’t keep their cool in difficult situations. It’s not just women, however, who sometimes let their emotions get the better of them. Actually, looking at high profile journalists, is it really the women who lose their cool?

Since Twitter has gained popularity, many high profile journalists have joined and use the social media site daily. These guys have filled their Twitter feeds with petty gossips, insults, and emotional rants. Following some of our more prominent men TV anchors on Twitter is like having a never ending live feed of a Star Plus drama. Seriously, some moustaches will never be full enough to fully hide the phappay kutnis underneath.

Meanwhile, woman journalists on Twitter like Sana Bucha and Ayesha Tammy Haq have Twitter feeds that are informative. Where some of the men are re-Tweeting trolls and other juvenile insults, the women are debating and educating. Isn’t that what journalism is supposed to be about?

And it’s not just Twitter, either. Watch a few episodes of some of the talk shows hosted by men and see how often they turn into emotional shouting matches. Maybe we should be asking why these men cannot control themselves and behave in a professional way.

Thankfully, after the question about whether Sana could control her emotions, the interview got back to important questions about journalism and the struggles of a woman in a field dominated by men. Women have a lot to contribute to whatever career we choose, but we still have a lot of stereotypes to overcome while we do it. Thankfully, young women like myself have role models like Sana Bucha who refuse to be intimidated by these stereotypes.