Amir Mateen's Gossip Column – Part I

Apr 12th, 2010 | By | Category: The News

Gossip Alert

The News recently announced the return of senior journalist Amir Mateen who was supposed to bring his 24-years of experience and write a series of profiles on political parties – “how they may have performed, changed, and developed in the two years after the last elections.” What resulted, however, is better titled, “Amir Mateen’s Gossip Column.”

Amir Mateen’s “profiles on political parties” are little more than sleazy character assassinations of leading politicians that belong in tabloid gossip magazines, not serious newspapers. Despite having 24-years of experience, Mateen has spent the past several weeks writing sensational ‘special reports’ against the nation’s top political leaders that are filled with juicy gossip and slanderous innuendo, but fail to provide any actual evidence or journalistic merit.

Two weeks ago, Mateen wrote a two-part column targeting PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif that complains that “we still don’t know enough about him.”

What are his habits; his likes and dislikes? What does he read, if at all he does? There is more emphasis on his food habits than his mental and intellectual growth, particularly after his return from exile. What are his perceptions about the rapidly changing Pakistan and the world around him?

Mateen, unfortunately, provides no answers. Instead, he dishes out the same yellow journalism and character assassination that brought us to the point of his original complaint. Consider this “analysis” by Mateen:

The PML-N offers a vague one-size-fits-all policy on most issues. The idea is to keep the mainstream swing voters in a flux and show the real teeth once the levers of power are in control. The same strategy is in practice within the party where nobody knows who is going to do what in a future power set-up. A deliberate chaos has been created where all PML-N leaders are saying all things to all people. The real position, if there is one, is only known to Nawaz Sharif.

Mateen, of course, offers no evidence. He simply says this as if idle gossip it is a proper replacement for actual investigative reporting. Actually, idle gossip makes up most of the article. Consider the following:

It is widely believed in Lahore that if your name has a suffix of Kashmiri castes like Butt, Mir, Lone, Khawaja, Dar or Banday, you have a better chance of your grievance being addressed.

Rather than actually investigate whether some families are receiving special treatment and providing the evidence, Mr. Mateen simply repeats a rumour!

Mateens descriptions of the PML-N chief are so loaded with anti-Sharif bias that they read more like an opposition press release than the work of a legitimate reporter. From part two of Mateen’s character assassination of Nawaz Sharif:

A deliberate aura has been created where he is presented almost as a cult leader with his devotees, their eyes shining with respect, are not encouraged to question his great wisdom.

Again, where is the evidence? Mateen then goes on to complain that Sharif dared to treat him with suspicion, asking “what side” he is on. Certainly this would be a strange question for a reporter, but if the reporter has decided to make a living out of writing character assassination articles without any actual facts or investigative reporting, what is he supposed to think?

Mateen goes on to admit that what he is after is not any actual reporting about politics or important issues, but sensational gossip stories filled with sex scandals:

When asked how many wives and children does Shahbaz Sharif have, he flared up instantly. It took some effort to explain that when a politician offers him or herself for a public life, he or she may not have the same rights to secrecy as a private citizen does. He was asked that if Mustafa Khar’s wives and Asif Zardari’s philandering could be discussed, why could not a journalist ask a benign question about, what the number of wives and children the chief minister of the biggest province may have.

Think of how many different issues could have been asked about. Inflation, militancy, corruption, constitution…but instead all that Mateen and his gossip brigade care about is somebody’s private affairs? What a waste.

This is truly a pity because a thorough and well reported profile of different political parties and their positions on important issues would be a great asset to to the people as they evaluate their choices. But Amir Mateen and The News are not providing fact-based reporting, merely rumours, sleazy gossip, and character assassination.

To be continued…

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