Express Tribune includes excellent analysis by Saroop Ijaz, a lawyer and partner at Ijaz Co in Lahore, in a piece titled, ‘Shouting fire in a crowded theatre‘. Coming so soon after our posts on Meher Bokhari and Zaid Hamid as well as Geo‘s controversial interview with Hafiz Saeed, we thought Mr Saroop Ijaz’s observations brought an important perspective to the discussion of where to draw the line between freedom and responsibility of media.
The confusion regarding the freedom of speech remains at the centre of the non-regulation of the media. It is a case of horribly skewed priorities. Those making wild and licentious accusations can be held accountable not by the fragile coalition government but only by the media themselves. Aamir Liaquat Hussain and the sort should be asked to explain themselves not for petty indecencies but for sickening invocation to violence. The imam leading Taseer’s funeral has as much right to freedom of choice and expression as anyone else. Every time we decide to exercise prudence and hold our peace, we are cowardly relinquishing the only semblance of freedom that we have left. Mehr Bukhari, Zaid Hamid and many others are falsely and piercingly shouting fire in a very crowded theatre.
Every analyst and viewer is entitled to his own opinion, but nobody is entitled to his own facts. News programmes do not have to be dry and boring, but there is a line between entertainment and incitement that should not be crossed. As journalists, we should have an honest debate about this and determine where that line is drawn. If we do not, it may be someone else that decides for us.