Today, democracy and liberal development are interdependent with recognition by media. In an informed democracy, public reasoning based opinion is a vital aide for transparent governance. It is an age of advancement in communication technology where internet, push button publishing, news and views getting blogged up have an important role in making up mindsets.
However, media in Pakistan seems to be suffering from perceptual poverty, information corruption, manipulations of facts with a twisted approach to provoke chaos, confusion and democratic crisis. The federation of Pakistan that is dependent on peaceful co-existence, democracy and equality may be weakened by such unhealthy media approach.
Specifically on the front of terrorism, Pakistani media has generally failed to draw a clear line of understanding. Almost all talk shows start with anchors questioning the justification of war on terror. They have corrupted the mind of people by confusing this issue with anti democratic propaganda. Besides media anchors always invite right wing people and give them time to support their hate filled ideology.
Such a hypocritical approach of media and media policies have made our country suffer an unbearable damage where Taliban’s advancements to various cities and streets were ignored and masked under various conspiracy theories. Right-wingers in the media have always betrayed the people in giving them any kind of freedom and have only choked the information resources for their perverted interests in the name of religion.
Democracy faces extreme difficulty in thriving in countries that are in the grip of terrorism, chaos, perceptual poverty, violence and strife. Ideally, democracy should provide warring group mechanism for consensus building, mediation, representation and voice so that they can settle their differences peacefully. If constantly challenged by terrorism and violent dissension, the fabric of democracy may become frayed. The experience thus far has shown the media have not a played positive role.The media have also been criticized for sensationalizing terrorism,without explaining the roots of menace. The media ignores consensus building efforts in war against terrorism.
Today, we are lagging behind the modern world where scientific and political advancements are nurturing the society; we are not able to educate our masses with the global perspective of threats we are facing. We have bled to death by terrorism, our social fabric is tartered and the barbarians took the future of our children in their hands but we cannot unify against extremism.
It would be more than true to say that as a society we are worst victim of intellectual corruption and specially the Urdu media has demeaned its values with course of time. Unprofessional and unethical means of analysis have disintegrated the political process. Just showing disturbing scenes, dying bodies and bloodshed do not fullfil the cause of reporting. Such kind of attention dies with a breaking news and can only increase the immunity level of audience and create an enzyte level. A solid criticism and effort to explain events to people is more needed always and also exposing the root of violence than blaming it as a reaction.
There is also another element worthy of consideration. Media has monopoly of corporatism agreed with its ownership and this game of greed damages its ability to play a positive role in consensus building. Media is lacking a criteria of valued journalism and is only serving for marketing and advertising revenue . We want to sell and never rise up to sew our souls as a nation. Had the war on terrorism been marketed in a patriotic sense, it could not have led us to the hazards we are facing today.
Historically, if we examine causes of country’s dismemberment and creation of Bangladesh, then we see Pakistani media’s failure or inability to present East Pakistan’s situation and condition of people there. Still Balochi, Pathan, Sindhi and people from different communities and religions are not happy with the mainstream media; they think that mainstream media has failed to present their legitimate rights, demands and concerns. Media has failed to uphold federation rather it is becoming dangerous for the democracy. The question arises that if media is so much biased then how can freedom of expression survive. We will have to wage a war for the freedom of our rights in today’s scenario rather than sweeping every factual detail under the carpet.
Sensationalism is a by product of military’s regime and nobody knows how far this trend will go without check. Many anchor persons now firmly believe that they are able to make or overthrow governments. Information and the news reports are supposed to provide facts without personal opinion, unless interviews are included in story to reflect both sides of an issue, but unfortunately news reports today include reporters’ personal opinions and biased views.
It is very unfortunate that lawyers and journalists have been behaving like sole custodian of law, morality and democracy after events following the dismissal of Chief Justice of Supreme Court Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhary on March 9, 2007. Anchor persons such as Kamran Khan, Shahid Masood, Javed Chaudhary and lawyers leader like Qazi Anwar, Ikram sheikh who appear on different TV Channels these days are being presented as super icons and custodian of Pakistan. These elements are in constant tussle to harm medias view on terrorism and democracy. These are the people who support right-wing and are the most constipated armchair jihadi warriors who keep attacking the democratically elected people and never refrain from personal attacks.
People such as Zaid Hamid who are surviving militants of the Afghan War are given importance of scholarly vision; they are considered visionary with their hegemonic religious and hate filled agenda. Such militant mafia that has an agenda to divert Pakistani youth from the real problem are considered thinktank of media. These warriors are still pushing Pakistan to be hostile with its neighbors and have dreams to re-conquer India and Afghanistan thus confusing the people with tense situation.
The unprecedented and violent character assassination of the PPP’s co chairman and president of Pakistan by certain vested interests of media shows the intolerant and unproductive level of media and those who regard this as freedom of expression are clearly living in fools paradise.
Terrorism, institutional murders, religious extremism, racial profiling have sabotaged our civil structure and progress and is going to further weaken our institutions. In this bleak environment war on terror democratic crises,federation issues, provincial autonomy, education, health, environment, human rights, rule of law and liberal foreign policy should figure in media debate and discourse.
Pakistan’s liberal democrat community believe that federation, democracy and functional representative institutions at local, provincial and national levels are the only hope for survival. Good governance and accountability too deserve some serious attention by media. Therefore any debate in media must focus on democratic institutions, social issues and electoral process rather than campaign or propaganda against a few democratically elected civilian leaders.
Our media is also duty bound to develop consensus on federation, liberal democratic values, moderation, constitutional-ism, enlightenment and reconciliation. It is very important in the present crises that media should promote democracy as a culture, mindset and a respect for representative institutes and civilian elected leaders rather than targeting personalities, whichs can affect our war against terrorism/extremism and negate the democratic process in Pakistan.