Myths of the Electronic Media

By Imran Kureshi

The ruling party’s sweeping victory in Gilgit should be an eye-opener to our ‘holier than the electorate’ media-men. They should realise that no party or leader is losing or gaining significant popularity despite their best efforts

Political programmes on our television channels are probably the only political institution here noisier than the Assemblies. The fiction they present is better than the soap operas, leaving the viewer on the edge of his seat waiting for the next episode; the crises they cook up have more ingredients than the cookery shows; the superheroes and villains they create are more imaginative than the cartoons and like the advertisements, they are bent on ‘selling’ their political agendas. Following are some myths that our anchormen seem to project again and again:

The NRO is a black law. Recently, both the electronic and print media went to town to denounce the NRO as shameful and universally unpopular. They should ask the people of Sindh and the thousands who suffered rampant political persecution during the period prior to1999 to tell what they honestly think of the law. This was an ordinance that undid injustice and enabled fair elections to be held. With the tyrannical proclivity that dictators and quasi-dictators have evinced to oppress political rivalry, this was the first democratic step to counteract this trend. In the alleviation of injustice to many innocent people under this ordinance, if some black sheep were also exonerated it is unfair to point fingers at them, since many other black sheep are strutting about the meadows smugly.

The lawyer’s movement was a success of the ‘long march’. Notwithstanding that undoubtedly it was morally and institutionally correct to reinstate the deposed judiciary and the worthy Chief Justice, by now it is tacit knowledge that there was a hidden hand behind the success of the ‘long march’, whether you like to believe this or not. Unfortunately the manner this movement succeeded seems to have unleashed an agenda of destabilisation (which our leading anchormen appear to welcome) and it has given a perception of a politically compromised judiciary.

Action against ‘Lal Masjid’ was bad. Please, let’s be quite clear about who are the enemies of our country and defy the writ of the law. If they are in the capital, so much the worse.

There should be price control on commodities (especially sugar). Again I will appeal for a more knowledgeable attitude. Price control is at best a short-term solution and detrimental to production in the long run. The worthy Supreme Court in its judgment on the sugar crisis consulted the Competition Commission of Pakistan (CCP) to advise it about the price of sugar and when the CCP recommended letting market forces establish the price, the CCP was criticised for exceeding its mandate. Consequently now the only way sugar comes into the market is by strong-arm tactics. Wait till you face the sugar crisis next year!

The government is doing nothing for the people. Often anchors rattle off ‘sugar crisis, atta crisis, energy crisis,’ in one breath. Let’s face it. Load shedding is currently a lot less than it has been in the last two years, though the consumption has increased. Why are we so negative? Why do we not give credit where it is due? Atta was a bumper crop because the government gave a much-needed increase in price to the farmer and this is the only crisis regarding wheat. Conversely because of low price and delay and deductions in payment for sugarcane to the farmer by mill owners, we had a shortfall in sugar production this year. Apart from forcefully trying to keep the price down and importing sugar at great cost, our government is trying earnestly to alleviate the crisis.

It will be pertinent to mention here that after the worst economic slump this country has known, when this government came to power, we are now on the verge of a turnaround. The cement sector is booming; OEMCs are showing good results; the textile sector has shown some improvement after two decades; our exports have increased; foreign investment had suddenly skyrocketed though in the first quarter of 09/10 it has declined because of increased terrorist attacks and instability; our agricultural production has increased substantially. In fact according to an international report we are on the verge of a turnaround and the only things holding us back are the power shortage (which is not this government’s fault) and the instability the electronic media is determined to promote.

Every issue that the media promotes is supported by the ‘14 crore awam’. This assertion is also repeatedly made by leaders of certain parties that did not participate in the elections and got no votes. I think the ruling party’s sweeping victory in Gilgit should be an eye-opener to our ‘holier than the electorate’ media-men. They should realise that no party or leader is losing or gaining significant popularity despite their best efforts and referring particularly to the channels in Punjab, they appeal only to a limited urban segment.

Unelected advisors are ruining the president’s image. Let’s be quite clear that advisors are not political personnel but experts in their field; they need not be elected. The above myth appeals only to those who want to think badly of some people. If we consider the facts fairly, our security is doing an admirable job in the face of a difficult and deadly situation. Who knows how many countless lives have been saved because of at least five occasions when suicide bombers have exploded themselves at check-posts and thus been unable to achieve their objectives; also because of the innumerable caches of explosives and arms that have been intercepted and terrorists apprehended. We only see the tragic devastation of these blasts; we do not see the frustration, demoralisation and setbacks in the ranks of our enemies when their efforts are foiled, operatives caught and their networks smashed. We should give credit where it is due, no matter what your personal feelings about a certain individual.

PPP is losing popularity and becoming isolated. This myth falls in the same category as an earlier myth that there is a rift between the prime minister and the president, which died because it was untenable. Of course, with the trend of logic of some anchormen (and women) it is natural they come to such conclusions to prove they are correct. However, these scripts about the opinions of supporters of a political party should be written by actual party supporters and not those wanting to find fault, don’t you agree? There is an important difference in attitude to be noted here. In totalitarian regimes it is important for the leader to be correct every time and obedience unquestioning, whereas in more democratic setups difference in opinion can prevail and wrongs corrected. However, people who only appreciate dictatorships may consider these procedures as mistakes and signs of weakness. The most important fact to note is that in a recent Gallup poll it was found that 31 percent to 46 percent people think that the media is causing instability. If you have not heard this before — because the media is not covering this — you have read it now. So whether the PPP is losing popularity or not is doubtful, but the media definitely is!

The media is free. No! In fact, the electronic media is very costly; still they manage to find a lot of sponsors for both advertisements and agendas. Of course the government is supposed to have influence and exert it in its favour but unfortunately the PPP is probably the only political party in history that even when it is in power seems to be treated like the opposition.

So let us remember that hallowed adage from the Holy Book, ‘Amr bil marroof, va nahee anil munker’ and interpret it in its true constructive sense. Let’s not spread fasaad and only criticise what needs to be criticised and praise what needs to be praised. Source



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