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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Azadi March: Is Media Only Capable Of Destroying?

media panic

The Nation today has called on Nawaz to address the public and correct Imran Khan’s incorrect claims regarding elections.

Nawaz Sharif must come out of the ministerial veil and tell people his side of the story. Unlike Khan, he is lucky to have facts on his side. With so much at stake here, there can be no half measures. The Prime Minister must address the public on national television. His speech must identify the massive loopholes in Imran’s narrative. People should be told that the government has no control over the functions of the Election Commission. That the Election Tribunals have already dealt with 73% of the cases lodged. That no reform or ‘change’ can be achieved through abrupt mid-term elections, especially since they will be conducted under the same system Imran claims to be crusading against. 

This recommendation has one major problem, though, which is that people are unlikely to take the Prime Minister seriously. Most likely, he will be seen as saying whatever is necessary to protect his own job. The Nation does raise an important point however which is that much of what Imran Khan is saying is factually incorrect.

My question is, if a major politician is giving incorrect statements, isn’t it the job of media to correct them?

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Conflict of Interest in Media

The following excerpt is taken from a very well informed piece by Syed Kamran Hashmi published in Daily Times on 4th July 2014: http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/opinion/04-Jul-2014/conflict-of-interest-in-the-media

media_biasSeriously, how can someone claim to conduct a ‘neutral’ political talk show when he is an active member of a political party? It is like having an umpire in cricket who plays for the opposing team. Surprised by this notion of neutrality, if you raise an objection, do you know what they are going to tell you? Do not pay attention to who is the analyst, just focus on his analysis. Now that is the kind of bizarre logic that somehow approves a blatant conflict of interest.

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#BanGeo: Bringing Some Balance To The Debate

The national drama around who tried to kill Hamid Mir has divided the nation into two vocal camps: Hypernationalists calling for censorship and punishing anyone who dares to criticise the military and those who are so accustomed to criticising the military that they are defending some of the very same practices that they condemned in the past. Some balance has begun to appear, though, and it is worth promoting these perspectives as part of an effort to find a solution based in reason and not emotion.

First let us address the issue of whether ISI was responsible for the attack. Geo’s airing of this claim was sensationalistic, and the airing of a photo of DG ISI during the reporting was the equivalent of media ‘trolling’. It was designed to create a strong reaction. The problem with responding to trolls, though, is that strong reactions usually backfire, making you look as bad as the troll. The Army would be wise not to fall into this trap.

The Army is understandably unhappy about some of the way the attack against Hamid Mir was reported, but accusing Jang Group of being anti-military is hard to believe when this is the same group that publishes the opinions of columnists like Shireen Mazari, Ahmed Quraishi, and Maleeha Lodhi.

Not only Army, but other media houses should avoid the temptation to engage in opportunistic attempts to benefit from Geo’s troubles. Express’s claim that Jang is ‘running a malicious slander campaign against Pakistan’s premier intelligence agency and its chief’ is itself a malicious slander campaign that is both unnecessary and unhelpful to Express’s own image problems. And all media groups should be careful about participating in a setting a precedent for censorship. Today it may be #BanGeo…but tomorrow it could just as easily be #BanExpress…

It should also be noted that the #BanGeo campaign is not a response to the recent controversy, but has been going on since years before the present situation. Here is a a Facebook page created four years ago that parrots the same talking points.

bangeo

Maybe the question should be asked more prominently whose interests are served by this campaign that has been going on for years?

As accusations are thrown and parties try to benefit from the chaos, it should be remembered that when mud is thrown, even the thrower himself ends up dirty. Finally, all sides should take a moment to reflect on the excellent editorial from The Nation today:

If we leave journalism and its ethics to the journalists, and criminal investigations to the police and related authorities, and both do their jobs — we should be fine. At the moment, this is not the case.

Fear of Aabpara

hamid-mir-car

The attack against Hamid Mir on Saturday was not the first time that the senior journalist has faced a life attack. In 2012, the Taliban attempted to kill him with a car bomb in retaliation for ‘pursuing the secular agenda’. Neither was this the first time Hamid Mir faced such a threat. In 2011, he released evidence consisting of SMS messages and phone numbers that had been threatening his life. This time, though, it wasn’t the Taliban who were allegedly behind the threats, but the ISI.

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