Creating a Balance
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?