Is media playing favourites?

Nov 24th, 2011 | By | Category: Uncategorized

Meher Bokhari and Imran Khan

We’re all well aware of just how vicious the media can be, especially when it comes to politics. Whoever is in power at the time will always suffer the greatest number of attacks, but even opposition politicians are not usually spared the venom of our talk show hosts and their guests. So when a politician is given soft treatment, it’s hard not to notice.

Writing for The Express Tribune, Ayesha Ijaz Khan, a lawyer and political commentator, had noticed that the media appears to be giving the soft touch to Imran Khan.

The electronic media has undoubtedly played a large part in introducing Imran Khan as a political option. On some talk shows, Imran is a regular, appearing at least a couple of times every month. However, the frequent appearances notwithstanding, the PTI still remains an enigma in the minds of many viewers. With a few exceptions, notably an excellent “Hard Talk”- style interview conducted by Iftikhar Ahmad on “Jawab Deyh” (October 2, 2011), most talk show hosts end up chit-chatting drawing room style with Imran, allowing him to talk big on generalisations but omitting to grill him on any specific plans.

And unlike the generalisations that are being allowed to pass in some channels, Ayesha provides specifics.

Shortly after his successful Lahore rally, Imran appeared on Nasim Zehra’s “Policy Matters” (November 5, 2011). To the anchor’s credit, she had researched Imran’s declaration of assets, but when she questioned him on the discrepancy between the present market value of Imran’s assets and the far lower purchase value disclosed on the return, he dismissed her question altogether, choosing to lecture us instead on accounting principles, Imran-style. As the conversation progressed to his China trip, the fluffiness of Imran’s responses became even more apparent. When he spoke of China pulling millions out of poverty, Ms Zehra agreed, as would most of us, that this is an enormous accomplishment. But there were no follow-up questions when Imran claimed that Pakistan could use the Chinese model. How, I wondered, would Pakistan apply the Chinese model? China has certainly made giant economic strides but would these have been possible without its strict one-child policy? Hasn’t China also severely curbed religious practice and democracy? Are these measures possible, or even advisable, in Pakistan?

When some people agree to appear on talk shows, they know they will be taking a beating. Others are treated with respect to their face, only to be skewered the following night when they are not there to defend themselves. It is the rare politician who is given the soft treatment both on the air and off. We do not take a position on whether or not Imran Khan or his PTI deserve support, but we do take a position on whether the media should treat some politicians differently than others based on their own political preferences and personal biases.

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