The Role of the Media – by Sindhyar Talpur

In United Kingdom, right leaning newspaper, daily Telegraph ran the news about diversion of aid from Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority (ERRA). They quoted an anonymous internal source, and the events mentioned were from 2-3 years ago. The local media then jumped on this and have used this as an excuse for people’s distrust and low aid. Prior to this, it was President’s visit to Europe. Even if we accept that people don’t trust the government, there is still reason to give to independent non-governmental aid organisations. The amount given there too has been in pittance. One of the reasons, that I have observed, is our tendency to speak in self-deprecating hyperboles that foreigners, unaware of this national characteristics of exaggeration, find it as being full facts.

It is reporters without borders’ press freedom report all over again. Organisations that observed for themselves found Pakistan press to be ‘partly free’ or ‘mostly free’, while when asked the local journalists the ratings were ‘difficult situation’ or ‘not free’. Latter ratings otherwise reserved for North Korea. Are things really that bad for press?

Initially during these floods my main source of information about people’s plight was BBC, while on the local media I got know how much President Zardari and his entourage’s lunch cost but not of the drowning babies.

Aid is given out of sympathy and on humanitarian grounds. In recent years our nation has given little the world to be sympathetic about, for we have become synonymous with terrorism. Further our media has failed to do much combat this notion.

Yes there are problems and that there would be misuse of aid and so on, but situation is dire and people desperately need aid now. Current Government for its part has promised to be transparent. They didn’t too badly with IDP issue. Media must act as a watchdog to see where the money is going and ensure they make them fulfil this promise. Something that they failed to do following up on ERRA, consequently we have skeletons emerging from the closet.
Lessons are clear: A responsible media must highlight the flood situation to the world, show local, both private and public, response to inspire others and monitor the process of aid, this much they owe to the victims.



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