Our fellow bloggers at Cafe Pyala have recently exposed the shameful role of Geo TV and Hamid Mir in the recent by-elections in NA-55. Nadeem Paracha too has written an article on this topic, an excerpt from which is being provided below.
Tele vs. Tulli
By Nadeem Paracha
During the Musharraf dictatorship, the country’s leading private news channel clearly became a hybrid of confused ideological notions when it openly gave vent to the reactionary and violent gestures exhibited by the Lal Masjid terrorists as well as to the more democratic manoeuvres of the anti-Musharraf lawyers movement.
Though roundly criticised by the liberal circles for helping trigger anger among extremist organisations incensed by the army’s action against the Lal Masjid culprits, the channel knew it had hit upon the same lucrative and populist model first pioneered by such right-wing TV networks as North America’s FOX News.
Apart from continuing to give prominent exposure to some of the crankiest conspiracy theorists and hate-mongering televangelists, this channel recently let loose a constant barrage of spite against Zardari – all in the name of ‘democracy’ and ‘accountability.’
There are very few Pakistanis who would be willing to defend some of Zaradri’s recent decisions, but the channel in question seemed to have crossed some vital limits while commenting on these decisions.
What causes more concern is the emerging perception that this channel has started to sound more like PMLN’s official channel. Many observers believe that the channel’s two favourites, Nawaz Sharif and the Chief Justice, are actually setting the structure and tone of their rhetoric according to the dictates and perceptions being peddled by the channel.
During the recently concluded by-election in Rawalpindi, the channel gloated that its opinion poll predicted Sheikh Rasheed’s defeat. I overheard a senior producer of the channel at the Karachi Press Club boasting that it was now his channel that was determining the electoral fate of the politicians.
Though there is nothing hidden about this channel’s both pragmatic and maybe even ideological fascination with PMLN, I wanted to tell the same gentleman that his channel has been equally smitten by characters like Imran Khan and Munawar Hussain (of the Jamaat-i-islami). Meaning, if this channel now considers itself to be a king-making machine, then why, in spite of it giving Khan and Hussain so much coverage and vent, did both the men’s parties fare so badly in the Pindi by-elections?
Both Khan and the Jamat, which have been given a tremendous run on this channel to constantly air their anti-Zaradri, anti-America, and (some would even suggest), ‘pro-Taliban’ tirades, together received a mere four per cent of the votes in the by-elections.
So, is the gloating by the channel a case of sheer delusion? Was this also why the same channel suddenly went on a rampage against Sheikh Rasheed the night before the important by-elections, maybe believing the PMLN wouldn’t be able to win without the channel’s help?
This was by far the most blatant and distasteful exhibition of partial and biased journalism, where the host of a popular talk show and his guests made sure to make Rasheed seem like the most unprincipled and dubious politician on the face of the Earth.
The guests also included established journalists, two of whom made not even a pretentious attempt to sound impartial. The worst was when the host, still unsatisfied with the circus he had enacted, invited a controversial mullah of the Lal Masjid, Maulana Aziz, to deliver a sort of fatwa against Mr. Tulli’s politics. (Aziz, if you remember, is the same brave soul who faced the army’s action against the Lal Masjid clerics and extremists by actually trying to escape from the mosque in a black burqa!)
But all was not lost on the show. At the fag end, famous newspaper columnist, Humayun Gohar, seemed to have had enough of all the ‘objective analysis’ ringing around him and was man enough to castigate the host and the channel of committing ‘target killing against the personality of Sheikh Rasheed.’
As to how much this show affected Rasheed’s performance in the election cannot be gauged, but there is no doubt about what the real idea behind the whole façade of ‘objectivity’ enacted by the show was about.