Nadeem Paracha on Media Reaction to Shoe Incident and Aftermath

Aug 12th, 2010 | By | Category: Censorship, Ethics

Nadeem Paracha, writing for Dawn Blog today, analyses the media reaction to the ‘shoe incident’ and the resulting protests by political activists against the media. One can’t help but come away thinking of an old song lyric.

There’s battle lines being drawn
Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong

The attacks were a highly undemocratic act and supposedly coming from members and supporters of the country’s largest political party made it even worse. However, if everything about this condemnable act was undemocratic, one must also ask exactly how democratic and wise were the following acts that the same media group has been embroiled in?

How wise and democratic was the role of one of its religious talk-show hosts who blatantly instigated violence against a minority sect in Lahore in 2008?

How wise and democratic is the fact that one of its many anchors was accused by the son of a slain former ISI man who was kidnapped by a group of extremists and allegedly killed on the suggestion of the anchor? The anchor has pleaded that he was not involved and the voice on a taped conversation between an extremist and him was not his. How far has the channel gone to fully investigate the issue – even though personally, I am a fan of his and would be most happy if he proves his innocence once and for all.

How wise and democratic was the way one of its former talk-show hosts – with an obsessive habit of making outlandish predictions about the downfall of the current government – ridiculed the Sindhi folk culture on the occasion of the Sindh government’s ‘Sindhi cap day’ early last year?

The list can go on. I am part of the media myself, but refuse to toe the line many of my contemporaries at the protest rally were toeing. But what was this line?

Briefly put it goes something like this: Sensationalising (on air) an event that sees a man throwing a shoe at the president is freedom of expression; but getting the same treatment from those incensed by the nature of reporting that the event got on your channel is an attack on this freedom?

Same way, suggesting that the president’s tour of Britain amounted to him ignoring the floods but forgetting about the floods yourself at the wake of the shoe-throwing incident was OK? The channel did begin to obsess about the ‘issue’ like an excited group of high school pranksters. ‘What floods, where? Get me that shoe story, now!’

The above are just questions that I aired during my meeting with some contemporaries of mine at the rally.

I fully appreciate that some of them are taking their status of being the society’s watchdogs very seriously. But many of them know as much as I do, that within our community of crusading, pen-pushing do-gooders can be found a number of characters who are as lecherous, fraudulent and arrogant as those individuals each one of us loves to bring down for being corrupt and deceiving.

What’s more, recently the local electronic media has grown another edgy tentacle. That of constant self glorification, self-righteousness and peachiness, all queerly entangled with a huge persecution complex.

Exactly when or who gave us (the media), the mandate (and the audacity) to become judge, jury and executioners?

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