In June 2010 Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused journalists of “serving the aims of the terror organizations.” This accusation came after Turkish media had covered terrorist attacks. The episode triggered a debate whether freedom of press and peace are contradictory goals. The argument forwarded by Turkish Interior Minister Besir Atalay was that, “Terror organizations aim to demoralize security forces and paralyze state authority.
Their biggest aim is to make the fear they create continuously visible and keep it on the agenda.” On the other hand Turkish media was of the view that, “every opinion needs to be discussed.” We in Pakistan are also facing a similar situation. In fact media got its independence in Musharraf era and there was mushroom growth in this industry. Till 2002 state owned PTV was the only television channel broadcasting news but with the relaxation of policy 92 new television channels came up of which 26 are devoted to current affairs. Besides these, about 130 radio stations are operating in the country. This unprecedented growth in news channels has resulted into intense competition. Juicier the news channel is more audience it will have and correspondingly it will be able to generate higher income. Towards this end, channels do indulge in self praise and are always on the lookout for big and spice stories.
The problem starts when these channels try to surpass each other and opt to show grisly aftermaths of terrorist attacks. Screening mutilated bodies, injured crying with pain, sobbing and bereaved family members and pervasive damage is what they resort to. This is what helps terrorist in inducing fear and uncertainty among masses. In fact media acts as magnifier of their deeds by providing their heinous acts world wide publicity. If it wasn’t media, terrorist outfits comprising of few hundred to few thousand individuals wouldn’t figure out in a country of hundred and eighty million people. It is important to understand that terrorism is fought in the psychological realm.
While covering a terrorist incident media inadvertently highlights the cause of the terrorist organization behind the incident and gives comprehensive account of the damage caused including its impact on the masses. This is exactly what terrorist want them to do. It helps them find sympathizers and supporters for their cause especially when such organizations wrap themselves in religious robes. They can also count on the media for assessment of the impact of their acts as it helps in future planning.
It is not only the coverage of terrorist acts, often prominent terrorist leaders are interviewed by leading anchor persons of different channels in a glorifying manner. It provides terrorist leaders with an opportunity to propagate their point of view, put up a saner face to the public, convince them that they are correct and to win over supporters out of which they could recruit potential suicide bombers and terrorists. It is interesting that while the intelligence agencies fail to locate them they remain in contact with prominent anchor persons. Anchor persons can find their way to them and then broadcast their interviews.
Why it is so? In fact it is a win win relation. For a journalist or an anchor, it is a great professional achievement to be able to reach out to an outlaw who is being internationally hunted for and record his interview. On the other end it provides an invaluable opportunity to the terrorist leader to propagate this line of thinking and organization. The channel also benefits as its audience increases and so its income. Is such income or profit worth the ills it carries? The process strengthens the hands of the terrorist, leads to increase in public casualties, adds to the difficulties of law enforcing agencies in combating this menace and above all pushes country towards economic degradation and retards the pace of her development.
Our media and especially electronic media need to have a fresh look on its modus operandi for the coverage of terrorist organizations and their activities. As a responsible organ of the state, national interests should always remain their prime concern. Journalist being educated and highly aware segment of the society must exhibit higher degree of responsibility. They are not only forming opinion about present politico-social environment but are also shaping outlook of future generations of Pakistan. Their conduct should always remain above board; otherwise they will not be able to highlight the ills of the society and would be blamed for transcending from being reporter to themselves becoming part of the story. It is the responsibility of every single individual affiliated with the media to curb sensationalism and to avoid becoming a propaganda tool in the hands of people and organizations having vested interests. We need to take up this issue as our individual and national responsibility. We owe it to our future generations.
Source: Pakistan Observer