Noam Chomsky's Description of Pakistan's Media Raises Questions

Dec 8th, 2010 | By | Category: Daily Times, Jang, The News

Noam ChomskyAmerican intellectual Noam Chomsky has been writing about media and influence for decades. His book with co-author Edward S. Herman is a foundational work on the subtle ways media shapes the way we think and see the world, and the powers that influence media from behind the scenes.

Last Month, Professor Chomsky spoke to India’s Outlook magazine about the differences between Pakistan’s and India’s news media, and what he said raises not only important points of consideration, but new questions also.

Answering the question, “What is the mechanism through which the media becomes the voice of the government and elite?”, Chomsky talks about the analysis of British author George Orwell.

He says the reasons are that the press is owned by wealthy men who have every reason not to want certain ideas to be expressed. In the more modern period, generally, the media are either big corporations or parts of mega corporations or closely linked to the government.

Looking at Pakistan’s media through with this in mind, we can see that our own media is primarily owned by a few families. Consider two examples: Daily Times is owned by Governor Punjab Salmaan Taseer. You would be hard-pressed to convince me that Salmaan Taseer has no influence over the editorial perspective in Daily Times, but at least he allows professionals to edit the newspaper.

Consider as an alternative Jang Group. Their daily newspaper The News International is founded by Mir Khalil-ur-Rahman, Group Chairman is Mir Javed Rahman, and Editor-in-Chief is Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman. Is it not better to name the newspaper The News Rahman?

Chomsky does give some credit to our domestic media, which I agree is warranted – Pakistani journalists show no fear of criticising government officials.

In Pakistan, I read the English language media which go to a tiny part of the population. Apparently, the government, no matter how repressive it is, is willing to say to them that you have your fun, we are not going to bother you. So they don’t interfere with it.

The media in India is free, the government doesn’t have the power to control it. But what I saw was that it was pretty restricted, very narrow and provincial and not very informative, leaving out lots of things. What I saw was a small sample. There are very good things in the Indian media, specially the Hindu and a couple of others. But this picture (in India) doesn’t surprise me. In fact, the media situation is not very different in many other countries.

Professor Chomsky is correct that our media is free. But one thing Chomsky doesn’t mention is that our own media is so quick to criticise the government that it makes the opposite mistake. Just as it does nobody any good to have a media that is a lap dog for the government, it is not any good to have a media that is a rabid anti-government dog also. Rather than always assuming (or inventing) the worst about the government or any official, the news should be reporting the facts. If those facts expose the government for corruption or other misdeeds, the population is better off. But we do not need to invent corruption or misquote officials in order to create some drama. Citizens need the media to give them facts about their country so that they can form their own opinions. If they do not have the facts, their opinions will be misguided. If the so-called ‘facts’ are simply the wishes or inventions of someone in the media, their opinions will also be misguided.

This has been the driving belief behind the very beginning of Pakistan Media Watch. Pakistan’s media is finally free…but is it fair and factual? Just as proper journalists have accepted the responsibility to keep watch on the government to keep it honest, we have accepted the responsibility to keep watch on the media to keep it honest also. We hope you, our dear reader, will keep a watch over us also and let us know if we make some mistake. Together we will help make certain that Pakistan’s media is not only freer than India’s, but more reliable also.

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