The Media Doth Protest Too Much
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The recent drama surrounding the Punjab Assembly’s resolution criticising the media has been nothing short of a farce. But while neither group comes out of the drama looking like a mature or sensible institution, there is a good opportunity to learn from the fiasco and improve for the future.
While possibly not the best way of airing its frustration with media, the original language of the resolution was not exactly worthy of the response it received from the media community. To borrow a phrase from Shakespeare, “The media doth protest too much.” After five days of loud and disruptive protests by media, though, the PA turned around and passed a resolution praising the media. What has been the result? Both the PA and the media look childish.
Azhar Ghumro observes that the media’s reaction to the criticism of the PA demonstrates that perhaps we need to use this episode of political drama as a lesson. Azhar hopes that the opportunity for some self-reflection and improvement by the media is not missed.
Criticism is a highly specialised job and people unless qualified, intrinsically at least, should refrain from engaging in it as it can harm more than the intended good. But, after the advent of the electronic age in Pakistan, our 24/7 news crazy media jumped onto this bandwagon and thus criticism turned into entertainment. Now, every day, willingly or unwillingly, we are compelled to absorb a daily dose of criticism in the form of TV news shows.
Here it is worth mentioning that almost all TV show hosts invite the same sharp-tongued politicians, retired generals, bureaucrats and pseudo-intellectuals to hold a debate on critical issues being faced by the country, irrespective of whether the invited guests possess or do not possess any influence on public opinion or party policy making.
During these TV shows, a majority of the show hosts, instead of facilitating such debates towards a conclusive and logical end such as highlighting the weakness or absence of a tangible policy to handle a particular issue, providing suggestions and seeking commitments from the guests to address these issues, prefer the unnecessary grilling of their invited guests. In such an exercise, guests belonging to rival groups accost them. This unnecessary grilling has become a trademark of all such TV shows and the rating of shows and show hosts are now being based on their degree or height of grilling their guests.
Perhaps, then, we need not be surprised that in response to the PA resolution criticising the media, journalists and media representatives responded similarly to their regular program behaviour – yelling.
The media held countrywide demonstrations against the parliamentarians and political parties involved in the episode. During these demonstrations, effigies of the movers of the resolution were burned and they were cast as villains. Similarly, the electronic media dedicated regular shows in solidarity with their community and started making fun of the involved parliamentarians.
The media has overcome immense pressure and censorship from governments in the past, so it is understandable that journalists will be sensitive to official government resolutions that criticise them. But suffering censorship in the past is not a license to act recklessly and irresponsibly, nor does it mean that you are exempt from criticism for such.
Media should be setting an example of maturity and reasonable criticism, not engaging in street politics to intimidate those who dare to criticise them. If everyone is yelling only, how should we expect anyone else to react? Better to be rational and honest. If you want others to respect your criticism, perhaps you ought to consider if there is any truth to theirs as well.