Cre­at­ing a Bal­ance

Slogan - - EDITOR’S DESK - Javed An­sari

For how long will Pak­istani elec­tronic me­dia con­tinue to be­have as agents of sen­sa­tion­al­ism and re­port only neg­a­tive news re­gard­ing the coun­try. No doubt, there is no dearth of sen­sa­tion­al­ism as far as po­lit­i­cal news in con­cerned and ev­ery­one is hav­ing a field time. There is a new de­vel­op­ment ev­ery­day and the politi­cians, both of the run-of-the-mill kind and sea­sonal birds, have some­thing or the other to say on news chan­nels which they pa­tron­ize as a daily duty. These are happy times for the TV chan­nels and whether they know any­thing about what’s re­ally hap­pen­ing, they add their two bits and this makes for good trans­mis­sions that at­tract view­ers by the droves, sit­ting in front of their TV sets and gob­bling up ev­ery­thing that the knowl­edge­able an­chors and their guests have to say about the po­lit­i­cal de­vel­op­ments, po­lit­i­cal fam­i­lies and even their ser­vants. But there is much else to re­port and talk about. As far as other news is con­cerned all that there is on the chan­nels is mur­der, rape, da­coities, bomb­ings, hold-ups, kid­nap­pings and the rest. These chan­nels and their wor­thy re­porters can­not find any­thing pos­i­tive to re­port. Or is it that the chan­nel own­ers de­lib­er­ately brief their news ed­i­tors and pro­duc­ers to con­cen­trate on the neg­a­tive and ig­nore the pos­i­tive. It seems as if they are fol­low­ing a de­lib­er­ate pol­icy of gloom so that Pak­istan be­comes an even more unattrac­tive destination for the out­siders and its tourism in­dus­try, which is al­ready in the dumps, is com­pletely de­stroyed.

Free­dom of ex­pres­sion is an ac­tiv­ity that has been taken to its lim­its by the Pak­istani elec­tronic me­dia but it is time now that they were brought un­der some kind of con­trols and given poli­cies that would be more Pak­istan-friendly than any­thing else. There has been talk for a very long time of putting in some kind of code of ethics in place but that has never hap­pened. Now the govern­ment must take this up as a pri­or­ity and draw up a code of ethics it­self and dis­sem­i­nate it to the me­dia. The code must see to it that while neg­a­tive news is prop­a­gated on its merit, pos­i­tive news is also re­ported to cre­ate a bal­ance and Pak­istan’s soft im­age is brought for­ward. Pak­istan is the world’s top coun­try suf­fer­ing from the men­ace of ter­ror­ism, no mat­ter what Mr. Trump says. Even China has ac­knowl­edged this though the Pak­istan for­eign min­is­ter could not gather enough gump­tion to re­ply in a be­fit­ting man­ner to Trump’s al­le­ga­tions against Pak­istan. All that he had to ut­ter was a mur­mur that he would take up the is­sue when he vis­its the U.S. Per­haps Pak­istan was bet­ter off without a for­eign min­is­ter rather than a guy who is so hes­i­tant in giv­ing a pow­er­ful for­eign pol­icy state­ment. Per­haps he was wait­ing when his real boss, namely sacked prime min­is­ter Nawaz Sharif, would have the time to brief him on the is­sue.

There are so many other sto­ries to re­port. A re­cent one was that of the death of Dr. Ruth Pfau and the nam­ing of the Karachi Civil Hos­pi­tal af­ter her. It just re­ceived a pass­ing ref­er­ence on the TV chan­nels. Why couldn’t a big thing be made out of it? She did so much for Pak­istan. Her fo­cus was the dis­ease of lep­rosy which peo­ple keep a dis­tance from. She ded­i­cated her whole life to it. But her story was miss­ing. For them, she was prob­a­bly an­other for­eign nun who lived and died in Pak­istan. It was heart-warm­ing though to see the ser­vice chiefs salut­ing her cof­fin as she was be­ing taken for burial. Why couldn’t the chan­nels or­ga­nize spe­cial live trans­mis­sions on the oc­ca­sion? Were they all on the GT Road at that time or sniff­ing for some gos­sip in La­hore or Islamabad?

Gen­eral Pervez Musharraf gave Pak­istan the gift of a free me­dia but the elec­tronic me­dia have made a mock­ery of it and have thrown all cau­tion to the winds. Be­fore him, Be­nazir Bhutto and even Muham­mad Khan Junejo made fee­ble at­tempts at free­ing the me­dia but failed. Af­ter Musharraf’s bold ini­tia­tive, it fell on the Pemra to reg­u­late the chan­nels in such a man­ner that the prime pur­pose of na­tion-build­ing was served but Pemra fell short and acted more like a hand maiden of the govern­ment in power. While run­ning a chan­nel is an ex­pen­sive propo­si­tion, it is also not clear how the num­ber of chan­nels keep grow­ing and sur­viv­ing? Or is it that the sto­ries about brief­cases be­ing de­liv­ered to their of­fices are true?

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