Posts Tagged ‘Airblue’

The News, Ansar Abbasi Exploit Flood Victims

Monday, August 2nd, 2010

Ansar AbbasiIn a disappointing and callous move today, The News and its star “reporter” Ansar Abbasi use the suffering of KP flood victims to make a bizarre political attack. In yet another example of using its newspaper as a political organization, The News has published as a ‘top story’ an unsubstantiated opinion column – this time with little regard to the suffering of flood victims.

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The article in discussion calls the government’s reaction to the flood “perfect demonstration of apathy” and criticises government ministers for carrying out government business.

While President Asif Ali Zardari flew off to his foreign visit to France and Britain despite this massive destruction and cries of millions at home and in spite of the British Prime Minister David Cameron’s anti-Pakistan utterances in India, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and his cabinet have been busy in their usual routine chores that include party meetings and addressing election rallies.

Ansar Abbasi does not, of course, explain what he would expect the president or his ministers to do  should they cancel all government business, though. Does he expect them to go to KP to volunteer as relief workers? Of course not.

Actually, the government must continue its business so that the nation may continue. Perhaps it is a sad truth, but everything cannot come to a stand still when there is a disaster. In fact, the real problem for politicians is that there is a public relations dilemma. Politicians often do some meaningless acts to get positive media coverage, even if those acts are only symbolic. This is why politicians are always at popular events. It is just for show.

Ansar Abbasi’s column is part of the problem. If politicians do not do some symbolic gesture, they risk being criticised by media commentators. But the truth is, Ansar Abbasi gives away his true intentions when he mentions UK PM David Cameron. What does the UK PM have to do with KP flooding? Nothing. It is just another way to smear the president who Ansar Abbasi does not like.

Ansar Abbasi then goes on to criticise the government officials for being too slow set up a fund for victims.

However, late in the evening, the announcement for the creation of the fund for flood victims and the areas hit by it came from the federal government . There has been, however, no justification why the federal government and the prime minister woke so late to hear the cries of millions of flood-affected people.

But Ansar Abbasi fails to report that not only has there been a fund set up, but according to report in Daily Times,

“members of the federal cabinet will donate their one-month salary, while officers in BPS-17 and above will donate one-day salary to the fund.”

It will be interesting to know if Ansar Abbasi will donate his one-month salary to victims, and how quickly he has promised to do so.

At the end of his column it is clear that Ansar Abbasi has written an opinion column that attempts to smear the president, PM, and government ministers based on no actual wrong doing, but only because he had the opportunity to exploit the painful feelings in the nation during a devastating emergency.

It is bad enough that Ansar Abbasi is so callous to exploit the suffering of flood victims, but it is worst that The News – a professional media corporation – approved the publication of this piece as a top news story and not even on the opinion page. In the aftermath of the Airblue tragedy, has The News learned nothing?

The Lessons of Airblue Tragedy Reporting

Saturday, July 31st, 2010

In the aftermath of an unspeakable tragedy, there have been countless columns written deploring the awful state of media and news reporting in the country. Intelligent and civilized people have spoken clearly and eloquently about the irresponsible and unethical treatment of the tragedy by major news corporations. The best memorial to the tragic loss from the Airblue crash would be a lesson taken to heart by media corporations and a permanent improvement to reporting standards.

Saleha Riaz writes in Express Tribune:

The government and the owners and managers of media groups (including the one this newspaper belongs to) need to come up with a policy on media ethics. Attempts to do so are usually taken by the media as a curb on its freedom. But would it rather have complete freedom to do whatever it wants to the point that the government ends up thinking that such freedom is too much and then the plug is pulled — as Musharraf did when he was power, or would it rather adhere to some kind of standard? The Five Rupees blog asks a question that needs to be answered in light of the crash: do we “prefer a free and irresponsible media over a sedate but muzzled media?” If it is the media that has gotten us used to sensationalist journalism, the media alone can rectify this. But it has to be a unified decision, just one or two channels changing their ways won’t help.

The blog post that Ms Saleha Riaz refers to is this one by the blogger Ahsan Butt. In it, he very correctly writes,

Nonetheless, this episode, amongst others, has really made me think. It goes without saying that on balance, I’d prefer a free and irresponsible media over a sedate but muzzled media. But that’s a false dichotomy. I’d really like to hear from various Pakistani journalists — I know some of you read this blog — and see what you think can be done.

The most obviously unfortunate thing is that when a channel does behave relatively responsibly and calmly, it gets absolutely no ratings. Remember good old Dawn News? Okay, the English language thing didn’t help, and neither did the Shah Mahmood Qureshi-wannabe accents, but I would also say that they weren’t nearly sensationalistic and loud enough for the Pakistani palate. Ultimately, we as consumers bear as much of the blame.

The outrage when such a tragedy is treated so glibly by our media is indeed warranted. But when will we see the same level of outrage about the poor quality reporting on politics, current events, and society? Is this not just as much outrageous? Just as much an affront to our national sensibilities?

Interestingly, the same blogger noticed that media coverage of KP floods was much different from that of Airblue. Still, these are both horrific tragedies with an obvious human element to them. So why the difference? Mr Butt suggests that it is a class bias.

Getting to the point of the post, I would argue that class really matters here. The type of person who is likely to die in an Air Blue flight, socio-economically speaking, is very different from the type of person who loses their family in flooding in KP. I’m sorry, but that’s just the truth, and anyone pretending otherwise is just being silly.

I would further submit that that distinction matters when deciding upon the coverage given to this. Ask yourselves this: do you really think Dawn would’ve buried this story that low down if the floods took place in Karachi in Gulshan or Nazimabad, or God forbid, Defence or Clifton or KDA? (assumie that Karachi had a river running through it). For the types of people who read (and work for) English newspapers, a plane crash simply resonates more than a flood in a relatively sparely populated province, and that seriously affects how the balance is struck between the two tragedies in terms of coverage. Mind you, I’m not arguing it’s a conscious decision — I’m just saying that the ability to feel empathy for a certain type of victim really matters, even if it’s under the surface of our cognitive faculties.

This is the same type of bias that results in “reporting” rumours and innuendos and accepting as “truth” that Zardari or Nawaz or any person is corrupt or terrible without having any proofs or evidence to back it up. How often do I hear people tell me that they just know that this person or that person is corrupt? They don’t have any way of knowing if such is true, but their biases take over their reason.

This same problem is more apparent to us with tragedies like Airblue or KP floods. But let us not lose the lesson of these tragedies for journalism. Reporters, editors, and publishers must take responsibility to act ethically and not report what is not evidence based facts. And when evaluating what is important, they must also evaluate their own class and provincial  biases to determine if it is their own prejudice influencing the reporting.