A media academy for the PPP — by Elf Habib

The objective at the academy should be to groom a team with the cutting edge expertise to expose the extent and inanity of the propaganda against the party leaders and their policies and emphasise the need and effectiveness of civil supremacy over the security organs for peace, stability and development

PPP, the largest national party that kindled the dreams of democracy, popular sovereignty, human dignity and welfare and rid the country of the foursome of its army dictators is currently facing a manic media war against its image, rule and leadership. Media trials are not something new for the party that endured them almost consistently during the 42 years of its existence, including the three short intermittent stints in government. It bore the brunt of a media mediated by the dictators and their minions, the juggernaut of the establishment and the fundamentalists, mullahs and muckrakers of various shades and shapes. Its pounding by Zia, his political scion and successor Nawaz and during the earlier part of the Musharraf regime is writ large in media annals. Benazir was dragged from court to court while the judges were nonchalantly guided to guillotine her image, appeal and integrity. Zardari was mercilessly tortured and incarcerated for about a decade without being convicted. The return of democracy however raised some hopes that the media would relent in its witch-hunting and exorcism of the fledgling system and would instead investigate the excesses of dictatorship and the establishment. Yet the media, particularly its Urdu and electronic channels, reinforced its rapport with the establishment and ecclesiastical forces to batter the elected incumbents, and particularly the PPP leadership.

The plight of PPP, blasted by this cannonade, becomes even more precarious without Benazir, its most charismatic icon to mesmerise the media moguls. Zardari, thrust somehow at its top, despite all his attributes, is reticent and isolationist and has never been a man of the people or the press. He was almost always conditioned to work behind the scenes and the presidency further confined him to a pedestal where he is usually heard or spoken through his surrogates and spokespersons. He has also, somehow, sidelined some of his media savvy colleagues such as Sherry Rehman and Raza Rabbani. Farzana Raja, another articulate exponent, has also been missing for quite some time. Kaira, despite his commanding height, brio and beard, cannot counter the meticulously drilled delivery and diatribe of the opponents. Fauzia Wahab lacks the poise and the tact to tackle guile with grace and outwit the adversely adamant and incisive anchors. The trouble is further exacerbated as the media pitches the PPP lightweights against the glib seasoned firebrands like Marvi Memon and Sheikh Rashid, who undaunted by their execrable allegiance to the dictators, savour the skewering of the civilian set-up. The challenge is made even more ponderous by an ominous possibility that the orchestrated media onslaught to cloud the competence, credibility and confidence of the politicians would evidently thwart the evolution of civilian supremacy over the security organs, leading ultimately to the exit or ineffectiveness of the civilian system.

The media certainly is not the primary source of discontent and deprivation in our society, yet it can be a very potent factor to stir a wider discontent. PPP, therefore, has a greater onus to ensure an enviable and effective performance to project its policies and programmes, particularly in the talk shows. The party, therefore, must refurbish the skill, talent, articulation and acumen of its stalwarts and spokespersons and an appropriate academy has to be established for this purpose. Sherry, Aitzaz, Raza Rabbani or Anwar Beg would certainly make up the leading lights of this academy. Farzana Raja, Shazia Marri and Ghulam Abbas should also contribute to the grooming sessions, at least on a visiting basis. Profound scholars, researchers and analysts in various specialised fields as well as the leading media mavens with enlightened thought, lucid style and communication and inspiring aura must also be involved in the relevant sessions. Debates about security have become the most sensitive, turbulent and dominant hype of the media dispensation in Pakistan. Wildest media tempests are stirred at the slightest mention or routine remarks about our security aspects. The recent storm over Seymour Hersh’s humbug about our nukes is symptomatic evidence of our paranoid sensitivities vis-a-vis the security sector. Misplaced megalomaniac perceptions about security, in fact, have become the only staple and the solace for an otherwise indigent nation. Erudite security experts with immaculate and explicit eminence and belief in the rational place and relevance of security in poor and emerging democratic polities may also be solicited for guidance at the academy.

The objective at the academy should be to groom a team with the cutting edge expertise to expose the extent and inanity of the propaganda against the party leaders and their policies and emphasise the need and effectiveness of civil supremacy over the security organs for peace, stability and development. The incumbent ministers, parliamentarian and party cadres should be required to attend specially arranged training sessions. Even Zardari and Gilani may be required to undergo a proper rehearsal for articulation and gesticulation before all their important talks and appearances. These sessions must invariably be arranged before and after every intended significant stand or step. All illustrious speeches by Lincoln, Churchill, Clinton or Obama, like scores of other leaders, were repeatedly rehearsed before a select and trusted audience and advisors. This would undoubtedly avoid the chaos that marred Gilani’s maiden speech as premier or the jokes about Nawaz Sharif’s incompetence and fuss for repeated takes and retakes. Gilani, for example, may be advised not to start every sentence by ‘Daikhyay…’ (Look…). Zardari may similarly be requested to appear rather more affable, friendly and extrovert at various public appearances. He must shed the tightly fitting banded attire around his neck. Suits supporting matching ties, sufficiently exposed neck or open erect collars would certainly lend a friendlier image.

Special brainstorming sessions to weigh the pros and cons of various policies and formulate appropriate logic and arguments may similarly be held at the academy. Frequent mock sessions involving the opponent teams hurling all conceivable criticism, fire and vitriol would be a valuable tool for self-assessment and appraisal and enhance the potential to counter the actual tirade. The academy may even arrange for online participation for the distant and roving cadre. The appropriate details can, in fact, be accordingly developed. But the real need is to start the academy at the earliest. A larger part of the media ardently scours the world to scrape the most damning material, techniques and tricks to demonise the politicians. They must also accordingly gear up to brace the barrage.

The writer, an academic and freelance columnist can be reached at habibpbu@yahoo.com

Source: Daily Times



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