Posts Tagged ‘Punjab Assembly’

Publishing Media Critiques No Substitute for Actual Responsibility

Monday, July 19th, 2010

The News (Jang Group)The News yesterday published an excellent article by Raza Rumi that continues the criticism of media irresponsibility that Ayaz Amir wrote about last week. It is important to note that both of these critiques were published by The News, which is regularly criticised by this blog for publishing irresponsible and unethical articles, often political propaganda thinly disguised as ‘News Analysis’. But publishing periodic media critiques is no substitute for actual responsibility.

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Despite publishing the moderate and reasoned columns by Raza Rumi and Ayaz Amir, The News continues to publish unsupported rumour and political ‘hit pieces’ by some of its employees.

Last Friday, The News published a column by Ansar Abbasi that implies that the investigation of corruption of Farooq Leghari is being carried out as revenge by Zardari. The author excuses his unsupported accusations by framing them as questions, a popular propaganda trick.

Is this not what Asif Ali Zardari used to complain when he was on the receiving end? When he got acquitted in one case, another was ready. Is he taking revenge for what happened to him?

Nowhere does Ansar Abbasi explain why the president of the nation would be spending his time orchestrating a petty scheme to try corruption cases against somebody’s brother, nor does he provide any evidence for this being the case. Rather, he merely asks a question, “Could it be so…?” and plants the idea in the minds of readers.

In another article from last week, Tariq Butt wrote an overtly political article that accused government and NAB officials of corruption and using an intelligence agency to keep government officials under surveillance. Butt’s article provided no evidence other than the supposed statements of an anonymous “ex-official”, making all of the author’s claims suspicious.

In fact, publishing overtly political articles has been an ongoing problem of The News. While it is commendable that Jang allows a few columns by Raza Rumi and Ayaz Amir to appear on their pages, it is no substitute for changing the general culture of their newspapers and ensuring that what they publish is fair and factual. Perhaps if Jang reigned in their out-of-control reporters, they would not have to allot column space to such calls for basic levels of media responsibility as those written by Raza Rumi and Ayaz Amir.

Jang Group, as with all media, would do well to heed the advice of Mr Raza Rumi

Many pertinent questions have arisen from this conduct of journalists as well as the legislators. The political parties have to display more scrutiny and devise ways of achieving internal accountability. The media at its end has to work towards self-regulation and setting a code of conduct. It should be reiterated that freedom of media is linked to democratic development. By tarnishing the image of civilian politicians and diminishing the trust in democracy the media would be doing a big disservice to its future and credibility.

Three important policy imperatives must be kept in view. Electronic and print media have to work quickly towards a regulatory framework. The state should have nothing to do with this process and it should remain within the realm of the media. Political parties must also show restraint while engaging with media and they should demonstrate that their internal processes are transparent and rule-based. Finally, media barons and owners of newspapers must ensure that the media does not become another interest group like the lawyers fluent in occasional violence and drunk on moral superiority.

Learning from the PA resolution drama

Thursday, July 15th, 2010
The Media Doth Protest Too Much

The Media Doth Protest Too Much

The recent drama surrounding the Punjab Assembly’s resolution criticising the media has been nothing short of a farce. But while neither group comes out of the drama looking like a mature or sensible institution, there is a good opportunity to learn from the fiasco and improve for the future.

While possibly not the best way of airing its frustration with media, the original language of the resolution was not exactly worthy of the response it received from the media community. To borrow a phrase from Shakespeare, “The media doth protest too much.” After five days of loud and disruptive protests by media, though, the PA turned around and passed a resolution praising the media. What has been the result? Both the PA and the media look childish.

Azhar Ghumro observes that the media’s reaction to the criticism of the PA demonstrates that perhaps we need to use this episode of political drama as a lesson. Azhar hopes that the opportunity for some self-reflection and improvement by the media is not missed.

Criticism is a highly specialised job and people unless qualified, intrinsically at least, should refrain from engaging in it as it can harm more than the intended good. But, after the advent of the electronic age in Pakistan, our 24/7 news crazy media jumped onto this bandwagon and thus criticism turned into entertainment. Now, every day, willingly or unwillingly, we are compelled to absorb a daily dose of criticism in the form of TV news shows.

Here it is worth mentioning that almost all TV show hosts invite the same sharp-tongued politicians, retired generals, bureaucrats and pseudo-intellectuals to hold a debate on critical issues being faced by the country, irrespective of whether the invited guests possess or do not possess any influence on public opinion or party policy making.

During these TV shows, a majority of the show hosts, instead of facilitating such debates towards a conclusive and logical end such as highlighting the weakness or absence of a tangible policy to handle a particular issue, providing suggestions and seeking commitments from the guests to address these issues, prefer the unnecessary grilling of their invited guests. In such an exercise, guests belonging to rival groups accost them. This unnecessary grilling has become a trademark of all such TV shows and the rating of shows and show hosts are now being based on their degree or height of grilling their guests.

Perhaps, then, we need not be surprised that in response to the PA resolution criticising the media, journalists and media representatives responded similarly to their regular program behaviour – yelling.

The media held countrywide demonstrations against the parliamentarians and political parties involved in the episode. During these demonstrations, effigies of the movers of the resolution were burned and they were cast as villains. Similarly, the electronic media dedicated regular shows in solidarity with their community and started making fun of the involved parliamentarians.

The media has overcome immense pressure and censorship from governments in the past, so it is understandable that journalists will be sensitive to official government resolutions that criticise them. But suffering censorship in the past is not a license to act recklessly and irresponsibly, nor does it mean that you are exempt from criticism for such.

Media should be setting an example of maturity and reasonable criticism, not engaging in street politics to intimidate those who dare to criticise them. If everyone is yelling only, how should we expect anyone else to react? Better to be rational and honest. If you want others to respect your criticism, perhaps you ought to consider if there is any truth to theirs as well.