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.