Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Lost Glory of Pakistani Media By Iftikhar Chaudri

Pakistan’s Media is in an embryonic state- this is the principal argument, which is being given,  in relation to Pakistani Media , when its demerits are under-discussion. How long this state can persist? In fact with the commercialization of the Media, many factors are stitched to the wayward growth of it. The reader and viewers are being devoid of ‘journalism of news content’ and commercial colors become dominant feature of present Media Realm.

 It is exactly what happened to the classical and neo-classical mega hits, which transform into another ‘genre’, by remixing with rap or ‘jhankar’ music.  I do agree that journalism in modern era is more or less, commercialized.  What we identify in the present circumstances is'" the conduct of a journalist in the factual reporting and tailored/influenced reporting" .

With the passage of time, the mushroom growth of TV Channels, not only opened the Media market but also a Media or Information Industry gets roots. Since the Mushraf Era, the media house owners realized , the importance of its role in the power structure of Pakistan, they started manipulating the things in accordance to their own whims. The restoration campaign of Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhary , by the civil society and Lawyers community is an eye-opener for the owners of the media houses. The ‘ball-to-ball’ commentary of “the Restoration Campaign”  , on TV channels shocked the military dictator General Musharaf , who was forced to quit the power, later ‘honorably escaped’ to UK.    

Pakistan’s political set up , at the surface, is corrupt and it becomes a lucrative business to invest (mostly black money) in the elections and then earn through the power as a parliamentarian. As witnessed, the Media owners have also started minting money by exploiting corrupt politicians, anti-people Civil Establishment, to the extent, exposing the sacred Cow- the Military Establishment.
 In this game of power and money, the media owners start influencing, directly or indirectly each and every news item, being telecasted. Certainly, they have adopted a role of ‘power broker’.
To achieve their lusty pursuits, the media owner first destroyed the institution of ‘Editor’, ‘News Editor’ and start dictating the terms to their own anchors and journalists, through their ‘ kitchen cabinet’ or team of new manipulators. 

Whatever, an employee journalist writes column, article or posts news items , is mostly cleared from the’ HQ, under the new strategy ’. SO the role of an independent journalist is drastically reduced. The sudden surge in salaries and rapid shuffle or reshuffle of ‘Talk Shows’ anchors, personify the flow of immense wealth, through the power of broker-ship. Almost every anchor acts on behalf of their owners--- rightly and sarcastically termed these anchors as “ Siayasi Adaakar” by Asif Zardari. The corrupt political set-up, gave a stir to media, to play their role in the mainstream political scenario. 

The power ‘Qalam’ and ‘ Camera’ , has been purchased. The journalists who react to the ‘violation of the principles of journalism’ are either sidelined or sacked. The power of money and perks overshadowed, what is called “Professionalism”.  In this whole game of power, a professional working journalist is ‘the most affected individual’, whose job is insecure and can be kicked out, whatever stature he or she holds.   

Today, prominent news channels have rather dangerously attained the ability to sway public opinion (with their sometimes heavily opinionated broadcasting). From airing uncensored violence, showing political ‘cat fights’ to calling government functionaries the ‘mafia’, media ethics have often been kept at bay with the excuse of freedom of expression. While media freedom is still much celebrated in Pakistan and acts as the self-proclaimed savior of the Pakistani people, a combination of unprofessional news channels, political debates-cum-public-bashing-of-politicians and public brainwashing through airing loaded caricatures that call for moral righteousness, all point to the fact that the media industry in Pakistan is still very juvenile. Perhaps eight years is not long enough to attain maturity and professionalism. The media in Pakistan is fast turning into a self-serving (rather than public-serving) industry an industry that glorifies itself, is self-righteous and, most discomforting of all, and has a huge persecution complex.  

First time in the history of Pakistan, the accountability of journalists, is demanded by the civil society and  the intelligentsia. The Malik Riaz Saga, opened Pandora-box of journalists, got money, luxury cars, plots and foreign trips etc, to protect the interests of Land mafia and glorify the ‘deeds’. Many Media groups are utilizing their anchors to protect their financial interests viz a viz government of Pakistan. Reportedly, tax evasion by some groups and securing financial aid in any shape by these power-brokers, is openly in practice . These power-brokers , are masterly creating professional and commercial rivalries among journalists, it not only damaged the credibility of their competitors but also imposed a threat of vulnerability of employee journalists. In this whole game of power, media owners, spared themselves from direct criticism of the masses.  

The media managers of the government failed to justify the allocation of Secret Funds meant for journalists , in Supreme Court. The Apex Court freezed SS Fund of billions of rupees, with immediate effect. They tried to buy the professional sympathies through highest civil awards to some journalists , which is unprecedented , in the history of Pakistan. So far government is waiting the ‘positive outcome’ of the ‘temptation’. 

The News content in Media is reducing day by day, because of the very reason . Now the only threat to the owners of Print and electronic media is- the Social Media…. They are being exposed on this platform – Shaheen Sehbai syndrome, leakage of Malik Riaz / Mubasher Luqman off the Camera chat etc, and accountability for the corrupt journalists are being voiced at social Media.  Despite all the oddities, new TV channels are in the offing and many more new newspapers are appearing to grab or twist the public opinion for their vested interests, before and after the forthcoming General Elections.    

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Shia Target Killings- Is Solidarity of Pakistan Endangered- By Iftikhar Chaudri

The whole nation strongly condemned the  killings of  seven innocent Shia Muslims in two separate sectarian attacks by unidentified gunmen in Quetta, on 1st Sep 2012.. Journalists for International Peace also strongly criticized the barbaric act by anti-state elements who want to shatter the religious harmony and attempt to crate sectarian clashes .

The target killings of Shias , personifies, the complete failure of Pakistan's intelligence and Security agencies, besides shameful role of FC and police. Not even a single target killer of Hazara and Shia community has ever been nabbed by agencies, rather these agencies are allegedly held responsible for increasing " Missing Persons'  in the province . As a defense and strategic analyst, I have strong belief that foreign elements have penetrated into the folds and tiers of local disgruntled elements; that too the complete failure of State institutions; are being patronized by foreign hostile agencies... Our counter intelligence efforts are totally failed.. We didn't identify the agent handlers in Pakistan, so far..

 What is the duty of intelligence and law enforcing agencies???? They are being fed by the taxes of the people of Pakistan and they demonstrated worst performance in the recent days. We have top security brains, we have top strategists, we have brave sons of the soil who are sacrificing their lives for their homeland, then where lies the flaw and loopholes??? The most impotent Chief Minister Aslam Raisani  mostly stays in Islamabad - he has apparently no interest in the provincial matters of law and order...

The phenomenon of target killing of Shia community is not just confined to Balochistan, the buses and coaches are being stopped , mostly in Northern Areas and killers take out the people , get identification through the NIDs and through Kalima Recitations. We failed to identify those so-called religious institutions where this kind of fanatic breed is being prepared and under-nourishment. The role of religious leaders is so pathetic in this regard. Just few terrorists can destroy Pakistan’s top security circles , which even 1965 and 1971 wars didn’t witness. Instaed of considering all the Balochis as anti-state elements , our energies must be focused to nab the agent-handlers and breaking the networks of foreign trained terrorists and their masters, in Pakistan.

Unfortunately, media is receiving ' statements of Tehreek-e Taaliban and those statements are being published and telecasted. But we have miserably failed to locate and identify the  culprits, who issues press releases.. Earlier similar press releases are sent , allegedly by Osama Bin Laden and Aemin uz Zawahiri from unknown places? Our agencies could able to locate their ' unknown places'.   

Pakistan's so-called parliament has approved laws in hours which may suit to all the parliamentarians, rejecting Agriculture Tax,  approve third term for a PM, Head of the party can play havoc with the careers of political fellows,  who wont able to dance to their tunes... But nobody thinks to legislate the anti-terrorist laws in accordance with present wave of ' terror' , a war which is being waged in Pakistan to appease some other country or countries, for certain vested interests. The subject draft bill is playing now a ping pong  game within the parliamentary committee and the other stake holders.

Security  and Law Enforcing Agencies believe , as it is demonstrated in recent weeks , also pointed out by Chief Justice of Pakistan , in SC Registered Quetta, the use force, which proved to be counter- productive. Pakistan's intelligence agencies have to work alot to strengthen their legal department to make robust the gathering of valuable ' evidences' , which may fulfill all the legal requirements for severe punishments to terrorists . It is the institutional weakness of the security and law enforcing agencies that they keep the suspects in ' cells' for months and even failed to gather valuable ' evidences'. To just blame Supreme Court and lower courts for releasing the culprits is not justifiable in the present circumstances. as the Courts require bonafide evidence and witnesses as far as the present law of the land is concerned. 

The recent years also exposed the lack of intelligence ‘ Sources’ or less cultivation of “ valuable sources’ to get intelligence leads or access to the hostile elements. The security paradigm is drastically in the modern warfare, no doubt security agencies are well aware of the   rapid changes in gathering modern intelligence information system. Pakistan agencies needs to utlise their expertise in the field of practical technical surveillance system, which is totally  exposed in the OBL Case. The Mehran Base, GHQ Attack, Attacks on ISI offices, attack on Commando unit at Tarbela and so on, concluded with the analysis that some insiders might have assisted the terrorists, which shows that there is dire need to adopt nationalistic policies, not to succumb to the wishes of ‘foreign masters’ .   

Almost whole Balochistan Assembly is in Ministerial fold, then, why the people at the helm of all affairs failed to perform?? Despite all the reservations, We appeal to president Asif ali Zardari, PM Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, COAS General Kiyani , DG ISI Lt Gen Zaheer ul Islam-, DG MI and DG FC Balochistan- to undertake measures to identify the culprits and bring in front of Nation- Otherwise, God forbid, whole Pakistan will be put on fire of the sectarian clashes, which is  the principal motive of the hostile agencies and even those enemies who meet us in the garb of true friends. 

The very existence of Pakistan will be at stake , God forbid,  if civil and military brains don’t sit together, with equal national spirit to eradicate the wave of sectarian  terrorism and target- killings.

The writer is Defense and International Relations’ Analyst, President of Journalists for International Peace.