Many were suprised by the way Meher Bokhari was offered a position at Dunya TV following her treatment of Salmaan Taseer, but after seeing the leakedvideos from last night’s Khari Baat Lucman Kay Saath, those same people may be thinking that Mian Amir got what he paid for. Meanwhile, the anchor has reportedly been suspended for his ‘off air’ comments. Sadly, Mubasher Lucman’s Twitter feed has fallen silent, so we do not know if he considers the leak “Victory for social media in Pakistan”.
But while some of Lucman’s competitors might be laughing about his fall, they should recognize this episode is a cautionary tale for all journalists who use their positions to promote agendas instead of the facts.
Just as journalists should not be in the business of political attacks, neither should they be in the business of political defence, either. Unfortunately, this increasingly appears to be the role played by some whose recent articles read like briefs for the defence of the Chief Justice who is not even charged.
Earlier today, Bilal Ali Lakhani Tweeted that Express would not be airing an interview by Javed Chaudhry with Malik Riaz because they had been warned that doing so would result in Contempt of Court charges. It’s hard to believe that the entire programme would be Contempt. If some thing was said that crossed the line, could it not be edited out? Or are we now in a moment when arguing one side of an issue is punishable by the Court, but the other side is okay?
Enough. Journalism is not about attacking convenient villains or protecting sacred cows. In its short order in the case involving Arsalan Iftikhar and Malik Riaz, the Supreme Court ordered that media should consider all aspects of a story before airing it. The Supreme Court is correct. Journalism is about facts, not which facts are convenient and which are inconvenient. If journalists would do their jobs, we wouldn’t have to see shameful episodes re-aired every year.
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.
Meher Bokhari appears to have a formula for getting attention – say something so outrageous and sensational that people will have to pay attention. I regret that we will draw attention to her program again, but the episode of Crossfire of Wednesday night cannot go without response. The topic of the programme was allegedly Pak-India relations after 65 years. What viewers were subjected to, however, was an hour of hate and misinformation.
Claiming to speak for 187 million Pakistanis, Bokhari says that every individual wants to be at peace with India – but not at the expense of forgetting the atrocities of the past. First of all, unelected TV performers do not speak for the people. Second, if Bokhari stepped outside her elite media bubble for five minutes, she would know that while no one wants to forget about the past, neither are the people interested in wallowing in it. The reality is that all of the clips she played simply talk about keeping and maintaining good relations with the neighbors – something that 70 per cent of Pakistanis say they want. The 30 per cent who don’t, perhaps, are laal topi walas who make their money by projecting anti-India hysteria.
Speaking of which, Bokhari invites as her guest none other than Zaid Hamid whose failed TV show ‘Brasstacks‘ was built on the same anti-India hysteria. Zaid Hamid plays his role perfectly saying he was in a state of “shock” when he heard Nawaz Sharif’s speech calling for closer relations between Pakistan and India. When Senator Mushahid Ullah Khan (PML-N) tried to explain that the self-appointed defenders of the realm were making a mountain out of a molehill, he too found himself victim of Bokhari’s wrath.
Suggesting that Nawaz Sharif is soft on India is outside the boundaries of sanity. It was Sharif was ordered the first nuclear tests in 1998 in response to India’s testing their bomb, and it was Sharif who was PM during the Kargil War the following year. Whether you support Nawaz Sharif or you do not support Nawaz Sharif, saying he is soft on India is ridiculous.
Meher Bokhari says Pakistan wants parity with India, but forgets that parity is not enmity. Pakistan is and should be India’s equal, but that does not require it to be hostile or hateful. Just as Nawaz Sharif ordered the first nuclear tests to remove any doubts about Pakistan’s nuclear capability, he also signed the Lahore Declaration committing both nations to resolve differences with peaceful dialogue and cooperation.
Bokhari also repeatedly refers to India as a Hindu nation as opposed to Pakistani Muslims, creating a sense of religious conflict where none need exist. Once again, Meher Bokhari is wrong on the facts, and wrong on history. Actually, India is home to some 160 million Muslims. At the time of independence, there were more Muslims in India than Pakistan. And just as there are millions of Muslims living in India, there are 7 million Hindu Pakistanis also.
Meher Bokhari asks whether Nawaz Sharif has forgotten the blood spilt of millions of Muslims, seemingly forgetting that this is not a natural state of affairs. Hindus and Muslims have lived in peace and harmony in the subcontinent for hundreds of years, and in spite of attempts by some to continue animosity between Pakistan and India, most people are not interested in continuing tensions.
Through out the program Meher Bukhari continues to bash Nawaz Sharif saying that he forgot the contributions of our founding fathers when all Nawaz Sharif said was that Pakistan and India have several similarities, including cuisines. She consistently plays on the religious sentiments of people by inviting guests like Zaid Hamid and Jamat-e-Islami representatives.
Not content with merely bashing the PML-N chief, Bokhari then drags out an anti-American conspiracy theory, telling viewers that the Americans want us to think that the terrorists’ inside of Pakistan who are “a part” of Pakistan are the real enemy. Once again, Meher Bokhari gets her facts very, very wrong.
Many of the militants responsible for killing innocent Pakistanis are indeed foreign, but they are not American or Indian. Many are Uzbek, and just this week it was militants crossing the border from Afghanistan who killed an anti-Taliban tribal elder and his son in the Bajaur tribal region. Or perhaps it was the TTP and LeJ militants who were recently arrested armed to the teeth that Meher Bokhari terms “a part of Pakistan”?
Towards the end of the program she again shows an excerpt from Jinnah’s speech in which he mentioned talks about the two-nation theory. She forgets to mention that Quaid-e-Azam never said do not keep good relations with your neighbors. Jinnah also famously said that “in course of time Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the State.” It was always the goal of Pakistan’s founders that Pakistan and India would co-exist as good neighbors, not eternal enemies.
There is a difference between losing sovereignty and keeping good relationships with neighbors. Meher Bukhari wrongly projects that the current leadership along with PML (N), MQM and ANP are wanting to get back together with India when reality is, all of these parties want good bilateral relationship with India. Meanwhile, she conveniently ignores the ongoing violations of Pakistan’s sovereignity by foreign terrorists like Osama bin Laden.
The 18th Century English poet Samuel Johnson famously said that ‘patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels’. Certainly there is nothing wrong with loving one’s country, and relations between Pakistan and India are a valid topic for analysts and commentators to reflect on. But what Dunya TV aired on Tuesday night was neither news nor analysis, it was an ugly reflection of a poisonous mindset desperate for attention. It’s time to change the channel.
By now you will certainly have seen the leaked clips of Amir Liaquat’s profanity laced ranting. If you are like us and you decided to turn off the computer and spend independence day with your family (good for you), Cafe Pyalastill has the clip available, and we have embedded it below. But this post is not just about Aamir Liaquat, it’s about the state of journalism more generally.
In his defence, Aamir Liaquat responded on Twitter claiming that “It was a fake video, created and dubbed professionally”.
We decided to comment only because Aamir Liaquat’s reaction to the video leak gave us a dizzying sense of deja vu. We could have sworn that we had already written about this same event. Then we realised that we had. It was the same excuse given when tapes of Hamid Mir terming Khalid Khawaja as CIA collaborator in a phone call with Taliban. Then the memories of two-faced media came flooding back. A few months after Hamid Mir’s scandal, it was revealed that TV anchors agreed to declare Dr Aafia as innocent, even though when the cameras were turned off, they pronounced her guilty.
This was around the same time that Talat Hussain scribbled his vicious attack against Angelina Jolie – in Urdu, of course, away from liberal English-medium eyes. And, of course, it was the same year that we saw Meher Bokhari drinking at private parties only to piously read fatwas against others when the cameras were turned on.
According to Aamir Liaquat, the video of his obscene ranting is “disgusting conspiracy spread by those who do not want to promote Ishq-e-Rasool (saww)”. This is a perfect example of the incredible egos of our media elite. At least Hamid Mir had the basic decency to claim it was a conspiracy against media, not the Prophet. This scandal is about Aamir Liaquat’s own hypocrisy, trying to make it about religion in order to save his skin is just digging the hole even deeper.
When the video leaked, we heard no expressions of shock or surprise because there was no shock or surprise. Each person who saw it laughed a bit, then shrugged and said, “Mujhay pehlay he patta tha”. We need professional journalists and honest analysts who can explain to the people the days events so that we can make our own decisions about the issues that affect our nation. Ever so humble, Aamir Liaquat describes himself as “truly a legend of this modern age…whose name becomes synonymous with truthfulness and bravery in the field of journalism”. We don’t know who the media elite thinks they’re fooling, but if they think we’re buying their act, then truly they are only fooling themselves.
محر بخاری اپنے پروگرام کراس فائر میں مختلف قابل سیاست دانوں اور پالیسی میکرز کو بطور گیسٹ بلاتی ھیں۔ لیکن جس طریقے سے وہ اپنے مہمانوں سے گفتگو کرتی ھیں وہ نہایت شرمناک ھے۔
محر بخاری کے کل شب کے پروگرام کو دیکھنے کے بعد کچھ یوں محسوس ھوتا ھے کہ وہ اپنی بدتمیز طرزعمل اور غیر ذمہدارانا پروگرام ھوسٹنگ پر فخر محسوس کرتی ھیں۔ پروگرام میں مہمانوں کو بولنے دینے کے بجائے محر بخاری نے کئی بار ان کی بات کاٹی اور نا صرف بات کے دوران ہنسیں اور دانت نکالے بلکہ بدتمیزی سے منہ پھٹ جواب بھی کئ بار دئے۔ پروگرام نیچے ملاحظہ کیجئیے
اگرچہ اس انداز میں گفتگو محر کے لیے کوئ نئ بات نھیں ھے اور محر بخاری کے اس رؤیے کو پاکستان میڈیا واچ پہلے ہی ایکسپوز تو کر چکا ھے مگر سوچنے والی بات یہ ھے کہ اس طرح کے طنز آمیز روئیے سے نا صرف وہ اپنے گیسٹ کے بڑکپن کو اور واضح کر رھی ھیں بلکہ اپنی بھی بے پناہ بے عزتی کروا رھی ھیں۔
سچی اور ٹرانسپیرنٹ رپورٹنگ کا تقاضا ھے کہ کسی بھی بحث میں دونوں طرف کی بات بلا کسی کی طرفداری کئیے سنی جائے اور باقاعدہ گفتگو کے بعد ایک مجموعی حل پیش کیا جائے جس پر سب پارٹیاں آمادہ ھوں۔اور ایسے نہ ھو کے بات مکمل ھونے سے پہلے ھی یا تو کاٹ دی جائے یا پھر اس بات پر ھنسنا شروع کر دیا جائے۔
مبشر لقمان صاحب کے کل رات کے پروگرام کو دیکھنے کے باد اس بات کا انداذہ ھوتا ھے کہ شاید لقمان صاحب پروگرام سے پھلے اپنا ھوم ورک کرنا بھول گئے۔ لقمان صاحب نے پھر وھی سات ھزار ویزاز والا سوال کیا جس کا جواب کئ بار دیا جا چکا ھے۔ اس کے الاوہ لقمان صاحب کی بات چیت سے کچھ یوں لگ رھا تھا جیسے وہ کسی وجھ کے تحت جان بوجھ کر پرانی خبروں پر چٹ پٹا مصالحہ لگا کر حاظرین کو پیش کر رھے ھیں۔
سب سے پھلے تو اس بات کی وضاحت کر دی جائے کہ نجم سیٹھی صاحب نے اپنے پروگرام “آپس کی بات“ میں امریکی ویزاز کے حوالے سے تمام سوالات کا بخوبی جواب دیا تھا اور سب تحفظات کو دور کر دیا تھا- اسی پروگرام کی ایک کلپ ملاحظہ فرمایں
دوم، پاکستان میڈیا واچ نے بھی اسی اشو کے حوالے سے ایک طویل مضمون چھاپا تھا جس میں باقاعدہ اعدادوشمار پیش کیے گئے۔اور اس بات کی کافی گھری وضاحت کی گئ کے کوئ بھی ویزا اسلام آباد سے اجازت کے بغیر نھیں دیا گیا۔واشنگٹن ڈی سی میں موجود پاکستانی ایمبسی کے فراھم کردہ حقائق ان تمام غلط فھمیوں کو بہت پھلے ھی دور کر چکے ھیں جن کا تذکرہ لقمان صاحب کر رھے ھیں۔ اسی پریس کانفرنس کی ایک کلپ ایک بار پھر ملاحظہ فرمایں
پروگرام کے آخر میں مبشر لقمان صاحب امریکہ میں موجود پاکستانی سفیر حسین حقانی پر یہ بھی بلا ثبوت الزام لگاتے ھیں کہ وہ مستقل طور پر امریکہ میں رھائش پزیر ھیں اور پاکستان کے “دشمن“ملک یعنی امریکہ کا ساتھ دے رھے ھیں۔ شاید لقمان صاحب کو دوشت اور دشمن میں اب بھی فرق نظر نھیں آتا۔
دراصل اگر بات کی تہ تک جایا جاے تو اس بات کا پتا چلتا ھے کے دنیا ٹی وی کی ایک اور مشھور اینکر مھر بخاری بھی اسی طرح کی غلط فھمیوں کو سنسنی خیز خبروں کا زوپ دے کر اپنے پروگرام کی ریٹنگز بڑھاتی ھیں۔ ضیا احمد صاحب اپنے ایک مضمون میں میں یھان تک لکھتے ھیں کے پنجاب گورنر سلمان تاثیر کا خون ان صاحبہ کے سر پر ھے۔ مھر بخاری جن کو اپنی اسی رپورٹنگ کی وجہ سے سمئا ٹی وی سے فارغ کر دیا گیا تھا آج دنیا ٹی وی پر اوربھی بھاری تنخواہ وصول کر رھی ھیں۔
اگر ان تمام باتوں پر غور کیا جائے تو ھمیں دنیا ٹی وی کی رپورٹنگ میں ایک کافی بڑا نقص نظر آتا ھے اور وہ یے ھے کہ دنیا ٹی وی چینل صرف اپنی ریٹنگز کی خاطر عوام کے جزبات سے کھیل رھا ھے اور بلا ثبوت لوگوں پر الزام تراشی میں مصروف ھے۔
Media is ofter termed a ‘watch dog’ and indeed this is one important role of the media. Personally, I think this is a poor metaphor. For one thing, ‘watch dog’ assumes that there is an outside threat and that its master must be protected and never questioned. In the case of media it is too often the government which is seen as a threat only and the civil society never questioned. But government is not inherently a threat, and civil society is not without its own faults also.
Another view is that media’s role is a mirror held up to society reflecting what is good and bad both so that people can see the good and know where there are some improvements needed. In this case, media would show both the problems in government that need to be fixed and the good things that government does also. Media would do the same for civil society, showing the good of the people but also reflecting the blemishes in popular beliefs so that they can be mended and society improved.
While questioning Mr Obama on domestic issues; Mr O’Reilly, a strong opponent, abruptly asked him: “Does it disturb you that so many people hate you?” Mr Obama laughed a little and then responded. “You know, the truth is that the people — and I’m sure previous Presidents would say the same thing, whether it was Bush or Clinton or Reagan or anybody — the people who dislike you don’t know you. “But they hate you,” Mr O’Reilly stressed.
“The folks who hate you, they don’t know you,” said Mr Obama. “What they hate is whatever funhouse mirror image of you that’s out there and they don’t know you. And so, you don’t take it personally.” “You don’t ever?” prodded Mr O’Reilly one final time. “Doesn’t it annoy you sometimes? “I think that by the time you get here you have to have had a pretty thick skin. If you didn’t, then you wouldn’t have got here,” said Mr Obama.
For a variety of reasons, the media mirror has become warped not only in America but in Pakistan also. Mosharraf Zaidi brilliantly describes the state of things in his column, Drowning in our delusions:
The starkest revelation in the post-Taseer scenario is that the quality of journalism in Pakistan is in grave danger of becoming entirely hostage to ratings, profits and fear. For staunch defenders of the Pakistani media, this is not a pleasant reality to come face to face with. There is very little, however, to mitigate the cold hard facts.
Taseer’s position was pretty simple. He believed and stated that the Pakistan Penal Code provisions on blasphemy cause procedural lapses that endanger the lives of innocent Pakistanis. He believed and stated that there are skewed incentives, built into the provisions, for people to misuse them. Finally, he believed and stated that procedural change is required to give greater functional fidelity to the legal regime dealing with blasphemy.
This is not a particularly sophisticated position. It has long been shared by reasonable Pakistanis on all sides of the faux ideological divides we create in this country. It is a position that human rights advocates, political leaders and others have long taken.
Yet not only was this position rarely represented in the news media, it was repeatedly misrepresented. Watching young talk show hosts in their twenties make careers out of aggression is not unique. But when that aggression helps fuel paranoia and lies about someone that can then threaten their safety, we must draw a line. One such talk show host recently won the equivalent of the TV talk-show host lottery – a new job after a bidding war broke out for the host’s services. The new job is a reward for having repeatedly insinuating Salmaan Taseer’s blasphemous intent on a talk show. While one channel fired the host, it hardly matters. The new show will be even more bombastic. It will not fear facts, because facts often get in the way of ratings.
It is not only the facts that become distorted in the media funhouse mirror, though. It also makes it distorts the conversations about the problems the country is facing. And when we can’t see clearly what is wrong, how are we supposed to fix it?
Hyper-nationalist propagandists might believe that it’s better for us to lie to ourselves about the nation’s problems, but this is actually keeping us from making progress. That is also the conclusion reached by Mosharraf Zaidi.
Pakistan is being poisoned by false pride, self-pity and moral asymmetry. If we want Raymond Davis to burn, we should demand the same for Mumtaz Qadri. If the murder of three Lahori boys is unacceptable, we should be even more outraged by the untold death and destruction in Tirah Valley, in Bajaaur, in Orakzai, and across FATA that has been showered upon it by the Pakistani military. If we don’t like drones (and we shouldn’t), we must ask questions about what our helicopters and F-16s are doing in the north. If we don’t like targeted killings in Karachi, we should raise our voice against them in Balochistan too.
Pakistanis are too resilient, too beautiful and too good to drown in a sea of delusions. Now more than ever is a time for Pakistanis to be optimistic. The degree of responsibility in our optimism will make all the difference between perpetuating fantasies, or stemming the rot by promoting facts and reason.
Pakistan has the intellect and the resources to solve its own problems and clean up its own messes. We don’t need ‘patriotic generals’ or anyone else to do it for us. But before we can begin to improve things, we have to know what we’re looking at. For this, we rely on the media to be a mirror that reflects our nation clearly and accurately.
The past two days we have looked at two subjects that might seem unrelated, but actually have quite a bit in common: Meher Bokhari’s treatment of Salmaan Taseer and the theory of ‘Amusing ourselves to death’. These two seemingly unrelated items are connected by the common bond of entertainment and influence. A question must asked – when does media hostility transform from entertainment to incitement?
Many blame Pakistan’s sensationalist news channels for blurring the distinction and whipping up hostility towards Taseer. Chief among the accused is Meher Bokhari, a voluble political talk-show host famed for her high-decibel interrogation style. In December, she interviewed Taseer. Even by Bokhari’s standards, the hostility was striking.
“It’s said that you’re doing this for point scoring,” she asked. Minutes later, she flourishes a fatwa denouncing Taseer, deferentially quoting from it. The day of Taseer’s funeral, Bokhari opened her show by comparing Qadri to a Muslim “hero” from the 1920s, who killed a Hindu man for publishing a blasphemous book.
Bokhari denies any wrongdoing, and insists she was presenting facts. Taseer’s family feel otherwise. The first show, says daughter Shehrbano Taseer, was “plain incitement to murder”. The second, she says, was a “senseless condonation” of it. Bokhari again is no fundamentalist. She doesn’t cover her hair, dresses in western clothing and has vociferously denounced the Taliban.
So what does this mean when a journalist who is clearly not a fundamentalist plays one on TV? Is it possible that projecting extreme views and playing a hostile character on news programmes can actually make someone kill? For most people, the answer is no. We can turn off the television if we don’t like the content, and even if we do we’re more likely to be misinformed than influenced to take a violent action. But that does not mean that media has no effect on our society, especially when the same message is being broadcast from multiple channels.
Dr Matt J Duffy is an Assistant Professor of Journalism at Zayed University in Abu Dhabi. Writing for MidEastPosts.com, he examines the role of ‘cultivation theory’ in his article ‘Pakistan Media Mainstreaming Extremism’. The professor’s interested was piqued by the difference between the public reaction to Governor Taseer’s assassination in Pakistan and the reaction to the attempted assassination of a US Congresswoman by Americans.
The reaction differs dramatically from the recent assassination attempt in the United States in which a gunman tried to kill a congresswoman and succeeded in murdering six others. Despite what some call a “hate-filled” sphere of public discourse, everyone in the United States widely denounced the gunman’s actions.
In the US media, the discussion quickly turned to the role of ‘toxic political tone’ inciting the gunman to go on a shooting rampage. In Pakistan, however, we did not see reflection on political hate speech rather we saw the talk shows asking if the gunman was a ‘hero’.
After the assassination, a popular talk show host, Meher Bokhari, nodded in agreement with a guest who explained that the bodyguard acted justly given the slain governor’s views. And other talk show hosts, such as Hamid Mir and Javed Chaudhry, said that Taseer brought his death upon himself.
Dr Matt explains a phenomenon communications researchers have termed ‘mainstreaming’ – constant exposure to television messages creating a common set of views on issues. This is an amoral phenomenon; it can result in good outcomes or bad outcomes depending on the messages. American media has used the effect to reduce intolerance and racism.
The effect can lead to positive developments for a society. Since the 1970s, the mass media in the United States have peppered their news media and programming with subtle messages of tolerance, particularly of other races. At the same time, polls have shown a steady decline in racist beliefs and opposition to interracial marriage. The results of the 2008 elections were rather stunning as well.
But the opposite effect is also possible, and the constant stream of vicious hostility has an effect on our society. Meher Bokhari may dress in western clothes and condemn the Taliban in English-language newspapers, but when people watch her on TV, they are being sent a very different message.
In Pakistan, the cultivation effect appears to be leading to a reality that is damaging its society. The nation is suffering from the “mainstreaming” of extremist messages. But, the media are not merely reflecting these extremist beliefs. They are helping to make these beliefs acceptable – homogenizing them for the masses.
It may be entertaining to watch people yell and insult each other over inanities. But when the line begins to blur between yelling on TV and yelling in the streets, entertainment turns quickly to incitement. We each make our own decisions in life, but these decisions are influenced by those we look to for information and guidance: parents, teachers, friends…and now TV. Perhaps Meher Bokhari did not look into Qadri’s eyes and tell him to kill Salmaan Taseer, but she didn’t have to. The message was already clear.
Watching horror movies also can be harmless entertainment, but when we find ourselves turning into monsters, maybe we should consider changing the channel.
Meher Bokhari’s story should be a permanent fixture in journalism school as a warning to those future media stars who might be tempted to sacrifice all consideration of ethics, responsibility, and the safety of others for a boost in ratings and personal careers. The final chapter in Bokhari’s story has not been written, though, and how it plays out could have lasting effects on the media industry.
Meher Bokhari has found drawn a bit of attention to herself, though probably not for reasons she had dreamed. The Samaa TV talk show host raised eyebrows during her interview with Salmaan Taseer last November during which she fought with the Governor, accusing him of undermining justice and fanning the flames of religious hatred by questioning the blasphemy laws. Meher even read a fatwa against the Governor on the air.
Two months later, Governor Taseer was shot to death by one of his guards in Islamabad who claims he committed the act because of the Governor’s criticism of the blasphemy laws. Bokhari infamously followed the Governor’s murder with a programme on 5 January that asked if the confessed gunman Mumtaz Qadri is hero or terrorist.
It should be noted that this was not the first time that Meher Bokhari had projected extremist views, rather she regularly hosted guests including Muhammad Ahmed Ludhianvi who is a leader of banned terrorist organization Sipah-e-Sahaba.
On 11 January, PEMRA imposed a fine of Rs.1 Million on Samaa TV for projecting terrorists. One week later, Meher Bokhari was conspicuously missing from the set of last night’s News Beat, Farieha Idrees appearing in her place. This did not go unnoticed by media watchers, and some are saying that News Beat host has been sacked by Samaa TV, though we have not been able to obtain official confirmation at this time. There are also rumours that Bokhari has been offered a show at Express along with an increase in pay, but again these remain only rumours.
Rumours notwithstanding, what eventually happens with Meher Bokhari is of interest, however, as it will send two important signals to Pakistan’s media groups: The most important being whether PEMRA is a watch dog with no teeth, but also whether the media chiefs are willing to reward a TV anchor who exploits religion to boost ratings. Depending on the signal sent, we could see significant changes in the way media approaches sensitive topics.
If Meher Bokhari gets a raise following a large PEMRA fine, TV anchors will see her as an example of how to advance their careers: pander to the extremist gallery and exploit religious sentiments while shouting your way to the top. Media chiefs likewise will see that the government’s regulatory body is toothless and will ignore warnings and fines as they attempt to boost ratings by outdoing each other with more and more outrageous programming.
On the other hand, Meher Bokhari could serve as a warning for up and coming journalists and producers who learn that there are red lines that are not crossed in civilized discourse. Any temptation towards fatwa baiting would have to be weighed against losing one’s job and reputation in the industry and we might even see the public discourse come to settle at a more moderate level.
As Meher Bokhari’s story continues to be revealed, its final chapter will tell much about the future of Pakistani media.
Nevermind that militants have begun using young girls as suicide bombers to kill innocent Muslims, or the fact that lawyers – the very people who are supposed to uphold the laws of the country – are making the most curious arguments to protect a man who admits to cold-blooded murder. No, the biggest problem with straying from true Islam is…corruption. At least, that’s according to Alam Rind in The News on Thursday.
It should be noted that Alam’s article was published on page 5 in the National section of the newspaper and not on page 6 or 7 with the other opinion columns. It should also be noted that the article was labeled ‘Comment’. But I think ‘comment’ sells short what we have here, which is clearly more than that – what we have here is a Fatwa from a Media Mufti.
Here is how Alam describes the problem:
A dispassionate scrutiny of the whole situation reveals that the menace isn’t confined to governmental departments alone, rather the whole society has been infected. In fact, it has become our way of life. Our political and bureaucratic offices are infested with abuses like nepotism, embezzlement, bribery, extortion, influence peddling, and fraud.
These foul practices are posing developmental challenge, undermining democracy and hampering accountability. Corruption in judicial system has eroded the rule of law, weakened the institutions and undermined social and cultural values. It has impeded economic development, enhanced inefficiency and cost of doing business. In the presence of all these vices, there is no wonder that we listen of corruption scandals every now and then. Certainly, it has eaten up the country like termite.
Also let’s not ignore the sector which our anti-corruption crusaders in the media seem to always forget to mention: journalism. Salman Siddiqui broke the silence on this very topic last week in a post for Express Tribune’s blog, and let me tell you I heard more than one voice expressing dissatisfaction with Salman’s letting the cat out of the bag.
And clearly it is corruption that is responsible for the crumbling economy and not the refusal of anyone to pay taxes or the fact that investors avoid any country where they may at any moment be blown to bits by a jihadi on his way to meet his houris. It must be corruption because that’s what he hear from the media each and every day.
Honesty, contentment and social justice have given way to corruption, cruelty and lust. We are no more practicing one of the most emphasized injunctions of Islam that is to call people to righteous deeds and stop them from evil doing. We need to revisit our socio-religious structure because there is a definite increase in the number of mosques and those who regularly visit these for prayers but Islamic teaching like honesty, truthfulness, trustworthiness, balance in life, contentedness etc. aren’t visible in our society.
Obviously, there is a need to revitalise our beliefs that can only be done through enlightening education. A balanced education that makes us understand the Islamic principles rather than enslaving us of western philosophies holds key to our mental and material development. But let me remind you that there is no quick fix for such a grave problem. It is going to be a long drawn war, which can only be won through collective efforts of the people and government.
Pakistan was ranked number 143 on the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index for 2010. As Alam says, this must be because we have strayed from the true path of Islam. Yes, India did rank better than Pakistan on the corruption index, but that must be because of a Hindu-Zionist conspiracy. I’ll have to check with Mullah Zaid Hamid for some hadiths on that issue. In the meantime, let’s set India aside and look at the top 10 countries with the least corruption:
MashAllah. If there are is any nation more Islamic than these I cannot think of them. Clearly it is as Alam says:
A balanced education that makes us understand the Islamic principles rather than enslaving us of western philosophies holds key to our mental and material development.
Alam laments that “there is no quick fix for such a grave problem”. But I would say it is clear that the solution has already begun by the founding of Mawlana Syed Abul A’ala Maududi School of Journalism and its star pupils Alam Rind, Ansar Abbasi, Talat Hussain and Meher Bokhari.
These Media Muftis continue to remind us of those grave sins that are causing our country to decline such as fashion shows, foreign movie stars providing humanitarian relief, and political leaders requesting justice for minorities. Now, thanks to the Mawlana Syed Abul A’ala Maududi School of Journalism’s latest graduate Alam Rind, we also know how to get rid of corruption – rejecting the slavery of the West and embracing such pinnacles of morality and virtue like Baitullah Mehsud and Mumtaz Qadri.