Media under threat in Pakistan – A contrarian view to LUBP – By Shaukat M. Zafar

The common people have the right to know the working of their government. People intend to be aware of the happenings around them and it is because of media that the people keep aware of what is happening around them.  Media is a mirror of the society. It not only bridges the gap between the government and the general public but also provides information about what is happening in the other parts of the world. Without media we are literally “a frog in the well”. It widens the lens of the people to acknowledge a justice as well an injustice and policies and political processes. It does play a big role in creating awareness regarding problems of National Importance with their comprehensive background. Media is the watchdog of all the activities which happens in the society.

But whether the Media is doing the right job today? I think no, Exaggeration of the news is constantly done by some in this field just to gain advantages over their competitors. They are giving “breaking news” just for the sake of giving without entering into this vital question; will it be useful for people? Sometimes, just for minting money insignificant news is given so much priority by some channels that the real news is not even brought into the notice of the public. It was unfortunate that the part of media, a profession of passion, has now converted itself into a corporate entity that understands the language of economics only. I think a responsible and honest media builds a healthy society.  Its a fact that media is the most powerful weapon in today’s time to expose and let people know about any wrong political economic or social deed but currently, the way media is dealing with all these factors it would not at all be wrong to say that “media has become irresponsible”. I am not saying that media is keeping us in dark by not letting us to know the truth but it is being projected in front of the society without keeping in mind the ethical value, is really a matter to ponder upon. However, we live in such an era today in which both journalists and the public even in the most developed countries like UK and United States are still struggling to reach a consensus on what constitutes good journalism. It’s no longer enough for journalists themselves to think they are doing a good job.

Political Actors?

Media is considered to be the fourth pillar of the society, the other three being legislative, executive and judiciary. It definitely plays an important role in the welfare of the society and obviously Pakistan has progressed so much only because of Media. The role of Media does not stand for judgment; its major role is to give us information about the situations. It has to be one’s own decision to judge the situation whether right or wrong by looking different channels for the same news and then form a conclusion. What is obligatory on the part of Media is that it should not be wavering from its actual role ensuring unbiased information without misusing its power and sensationalizing the issues. There is no doubt that some channels are doing a good job and have influenced ideologies, brought realities to peoples faces be it in terms of corruption, terrorism, or nationalism etc; there are many entertainment programs or even ads our next generation get influenced by media and some things shown on the electronic Media are bad for them. In my view, media is the watch dog of the political democracy and its major segment is playing its role honestly that would become a great force in building the nation. It is justly playing as an informative bridge between governing bodies and general public, in absence of which general public cannot be aware about what kind of bills and acts are passed in the parliament, and what are their positive and negative effects in the society, if media persons close their eyes the government officials would do what they want, without any obstacle.

The media’s right to report Government’s corruption and bad governance cases in Pakistan is not adequately safeguarded. It is responsibility of the government itself not to shirk its responsibility of fighting corruption in Pakistan as only the war against corruption in Pakistan will go a long way to promote national development. It is responsibility of the Government to prosecute corrupt public servants and advocating the need for state institutions responsible for combating corruption to discharge their duties without fear or favor. On the contrary when people are charged for corrupt practices it tends to be politicized and not until this culture is done away with, the fight against public corruption especially at the highest level will be a mirage. On the contrary the Government itself, instead of curbing the massive corruption, is rather hampering the efforts being done by some Media channels to eradicate the corruption from the Society. Critics in the Government now call that segment of Media as “Political Actors” and treat it as an enemy. Majority of the leadership think torturing Media persons highlighting corruption cases is “often” or “sometimes” justified, while only few consider it always wrong. Zardari led PPP leaders who either don’t know or don’t care that this and other policies they advocate would be deemed major crimes by any court in the civilized world.

This is exactly the enduring crisis of Pakistan; the accessing of power above law and ethics and using it mainly for personal and group interests. It is an old rule from the feudal empires to throw some crumbs in society’s way but largely stability of the existing order would rest on deception, manipulation, fear and bribes to those who can join those in power. Much of the means and ends of power remain in the old feudal mould. Feudal mindset has never let live the people of Pakistan in better life.

Mian Nawaz Sharif has recently said that more than 400 billion rupees are being wasted in seven public corporations, which are not providing any benefit to the country, further adding that there is more than 500 billion rupees leakage in the Federal Board of Revenues. Can the Government dare to take same actions against Nawaz Sharif also as are taken against GEO and other channels for the same allegations? I have no connection with GEO at all but on some of my articles I was threatened of dire consequences on the sole presumption that I was writing such articles on behest of GEO TV. What I had reported in my articles were actually the figures of debts even available on Government’s official sites but even then I was treated to be a front-man of GEO TV channel. After having threats even on true and correct figures reported in my articles, I am constrained to believe that the figures of and on given by Kamran Khan in his programs regarding debts, corruption, and other are also true and credible, but the GEO is being victimized merely for exposing corruption and criticizing Government’s wrong policies. Most of the channels including GEO are in fact doing good job in the interest of the country and its people at large.

The present government’s claims of media freedom are absolutely deceptive; it can be adjudged from the statement of I.A. Rehman, Director Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, “There is freedom of speech, but no freedom to hear and understand.” The continuous attacks during the present regime on media persons and different TV channels are a glaring example of press intimidation. The Government should reconsider its policy; under Article 19 of the constitution the media is free to report on issues of public concern and interest. Corruption has increased enormously in the country and is being exposed by more vigilant and active media. Instead of dreaming to control the Media, the Government should rather control this non stop corruption and improve its governance.



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