More Examples of Two-Faced Media

Oct 27th, 2010 | By | Category: Ethics

JanusIf you discovered that your neighbor was teling one thing to you and the opposite thing to your other neighbor, would you trust this man? What if it was not your neighbor, what if it was the TV anchor on your daily news show? This is the problem facing our nation today – journalists who are trusted to inform the public are speaking with a forked tongue, telling one neighbor one thing and the other something different.

This should not come as a surprise. Fasi Zaka revealed last month that TV journalists were reporting that Aafia Siddiqui was innocent even while they were saying the opposite when the cameras were turned off.

I have a friend who works in the production unit of Pakistan’s most watched channels, and she told me an interesting anecdote that when the verdict was announced for Dr Aafia (not the sentencing which has been done separately now) the news team all thought Dr Aafia was not entirely innocent because of other facts in the case, but when they went on air they agreed to do so with the unequivocal line that she was innocent.

Fasi stopped before revealing the identities of these two-faced journalists, but George Fulton does not hold his silence today when he exposes two journalists who are speaking with forked tongue. What is most disturbing, though, is that it this practice is not limited to these two “journalists” only.

If you are a public figure in Pakistan — especially of a more liberal bent — you cannot always express the views you hold in private to a wider audience. You have to curtail your opinions for public consumption. There are some topics that are acceptable with close friends but that would accelerate your demise if aired publicly. A natural filtering process occurs. That said, it still remains possible for public figures to be fairly consistent with their public utterances. But it seems these days our politicians and popular TV hosts like toradically tailor their statements depending on their audience.

Take my old colleague and friend Syed Talat Hussain for example. A man I had admired for being a rare voice of sanity on Pakistan television. “Live with Talat Hussain” was consistently one of the better talk shows — holding politicians to account with facts rather than innuendo (you know who I am talking about). His coverage of the 2005 earthquakes and the recent flood produced journalism of the highest quality. Yet this liberal, thoughtful image dissolved after reading his article in the Daily Express newspaper entitled “Jolie ka Thhappar” — a column I was only able to read in translation, thanks to the Cafe Pyala blog. The piece was a vile, vitriolic attack on Miss Jolie’s character that frothed with a latent misogyny. In it he attacked her ‘immoral’ lifestyle, her allegedly self-interested and ruthless personality, and even her ‘plain’ looks. Nor did he spare her for adopting children.

Now Talat has always appeared the alpha male type, a man’s man, but never a misogynist. But then it occurred he wasn’t communicating to the likes of me or the Express Tribune readership; he was playing to the gallery. He was talking to the patriarchal, conservative middle-class readership of the Urdu press. Instead of challenging this reactionary readership, he was giving them what they wanted.

Nor is Talat alone in suffering from this forked tongue affliction. The Quilliam Foundation, a UK anti-extremist think tank, recently held a function in Islamabad. The event gathered together some of Pakistan’s media elite, youth activists, reformed terrorists and foreign journalists. One of the speakers at the event was Hamid Mir. I have it on good authority that Mr Mir was the voice of rational moderation that day. He talked unequivocally of his disgust with the intelligence agencies, he explicitly condemned the Taliban as anti-Islam forces and passionately argued — in English — that the only future for Pakistan was democracy and that it should be protected at all costs. Yes, I am talking about Hamid Mir, host of “Capital Talk”. Version 2.0 of Hamid Mir had transformed, becoming the personification of enlightened moderation. But then he was speaking in English and not to his usual Geo constituents.

Of course the reason that the Hamid Mirs and Talat Hussains of this world can get away with this duplicity is due to the linguistic Berlin Wall that the establishment likes to retain. Project an urbane, liberal image to the West with your (mostly) rational, logical and relatively free English media, and feed the wider public bile, conspiracy theories and irrational, simplistic nonsense in Urdu, thus ensuring that a suitably malleable, impressionable public can be whipped up when said establishment is fed up with the present government.

Do you remember when AQ Khan was forced to apologise to the nation for giving away nuclear secrets for personal gain? In what language did the disgraced scientist speak to his countrymen? English, of course. The establishment didn’t want the father of the bomb discredited as a money-grubbing chancer in the eyes of the public. Change the language and you change the audience.

This linguistic apartheid must stop — only then will such deceitfulness be eradicated. A colleague of mine has twice requested that his columns be translated and published in this newspaper’s Urdu language publication. Twice he has been rejected. So for this column, kya aap isse chhapain gai?

Published in The Express Tribune, October 27th, 2010.

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  1. Pakistan has many problems; most build up after decades of governmental inaction, economic mismanagement, military coups and terrorist insurgencies. Any government now in power would be under enormous stress from the complexities and the enormities of the current multifaceted challenges. But to use this as an excuse to destroy Pakistani democracy, to destabilize the democratically elected government and to functionally empower terrorists, is shameful. The Pakistani rabid media is guilty of something much more serious than bad journalism. Their misreporting, their distortions, their unattributed, unsourced tirades about governmental instability are infectious, and could very well become self-fulfilling prophesies. As the nihilistic narrative goes viral, western media picks up the theme and starts to run with it.

  2. Mr. Fulton has touched the G spot dualicity in this society is prevelant more than can b described in words nd not only in journalists and common peeple but also among leader for example all sanes acknowledge tht Shaheed BB was not ideologically supportive of iftikhar Ch.’s restoration but she could’nt dare to speak herself publicly despite written CoD.. more recently episode of rivalry between constitutional reform committee nd SCP, dare was missing not that i want either of them to dare but its just that we must acknowledge nd educate tht all popular views are not correct.

  3. There are so many problems right now in Pakistan, but it seems that there are some people who are hell bent on creating confusion and disturbing this democratic regime in order to topple it ultimately.
    Pakistani media is all about sensation, cheap publicity and false news and they are competing each other in flashing the breaking news. For them everything that happens is breaking news. In this frenzy, when they don’t find anything they start flashing rumors, and the pathetic thing is that Supreme Court takes suo moto notice of such rumors. The honorable chief justice of Pakistan, Mr.Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry’s only force is the angry young lawyers, who doesn’t have any practice and who thrive only on the violence and trickery. They young lawyers, who are semi-literate, mostly hailing from the villages makes a peasant army for the chief justice Iftikhar.

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