This is politics, not journalism

Apr 24th, 2011 | By | Category: The News

One point that we have tried to make till date is that journalism should be led by the facts and not the wishful thinking or political agenda of any group or individual. Particularly notable has been the number of false predictions that make up what passes for reporting. If a fortune teller had the same poor record as some of our brand name journalists, they would be unable to find another sucker to pay them. But for some unexplained reason, some journalists are permitted to make false predictions time and again and yet they continue without consequence or shame. Najam Sethi in The News Sunday most eloquently explains the ongoing problem.

Naham SethiSome well-known journalists have been predicting the end of the Zardari regime for over a year now by regularly giving D-Day deadlines. But President Asif Ali Zardari continues to defy their hollow predictions, prompting Javed Hashmi to wisecrack that a PhD in politics may be required to fathom his brand of politics. Considering how very consistently wrong they have proven to be, one may be forgiven for wondering whether it is lack of intelligence or scarcity of credible sources that lies at the root of their helplessness and rage. Or is it plain wishful thinking and personal vendettas that are masquerading as serious front-page political analyses?

There is even less justification for them to run down fellow journalists who don’t subscribe to their predictions, unless it is that green eyed monster called jealousy. To say that Zardari will not be booted out by such or such a date for various reasons is not to say that he shouldn’t be booted out, but to assess the scientific likelihood of that happening without attributing any value judgment of a good or bad outcome to it. But those editors, reporters and columnists who have been predicting Zardari’s end want it to happen so desperately that they are ready to sacrifice their credibility at the altar of their mission. This is politics, not journalism.

Much the same thing happened during General Pervez Musharraf’s last year in office. Sections of the media and civil society were so desperate to kick him out – albeit for the right reasons – that they were passionately intolerant of those among them who were inclined to shake their heads cold-bloodedly and say it wasn’t going to happen so soon. The lawyers’ movement in its heyday also demonstrated similar tendencies in the same sections of society between those who ardently wished the movement to be a revolutionary transformation to turn everything upside down and those who analysed it as a significant but non-revolutionary political transition to greater democracy. Surely, passion shouldn’t prevail over reason, or prejudice over logic; nor should one’s credibility be flogged at the altar of patriotism (these days it is synonymous with anti-Americanism), that classic last refuge of scoundrels.

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