People want to be informed about facts in the forst instance. They would like to be enlightened by explanations of the happenings to reasonable lengths. They want to be aware of background of the events, more so of critical once.People also need to see informed analysis of happenings. In precise terms, the viewers, listeners and readers of various forms of media want to be informed and educated with a view to forming their opinion regarding real issues. Pakistan Media "outlets" in most cases, clearly failed in discharging their duty towards their clients.
By Ashraf Ansari
THE nation finds itself immersed in media muddle in the wake of the Abbottabad swoop by the U.S Seals. Remaining true to a culture of hype, the Pakistan media lost no time to start trumpeting the incident, caring less abut updates, insights and analyses of the occurrence.
The Abbottabad incidence related to a most sensitive issue with its offshoots. The main issue was terrorism and the allied questions were of Pakistan – U.S relations and Pakistan’s credibility world wide. Our media, especially the electronic ones rushed to making leads of what was being dished out by the foreign especially the American media. They did not have the patience to take a brief stop and look for internal sources of news. Without taking sombre view of what they had in ready stock of information and trying to enrich it with an investigative approach, they preferred to indulge in cut – throat competition among themselves. There was so-called ‘breaking news’ every half an hour with hardly any new information every time. The anchors rushed to collecting group of ‘experts’ trying to feed them and ‘helping’ them in reaching conclusions of their own choice in the mysterious or at least less visible policy frameworks laid down by the owners of their media houses. The media scene continues unabated even today, may be in somewhat diluted form after the briefing by representatives of our armed forces at Friday’s in camera joint session of the Parliament.
Our media were not only one-sided by harping on the Western tunes. It was also one – sided even on Western sources as it failed to accommodate dissenting voices that were spontaneously raised in the west by saner elements in the intellectual groups. There were and there are credible viewpoints being expressed by many Western experts and academics who refused to fall in line with the official position of the Obama administration. Our media by and large, print medium included, ignored presence and availability of a more balanced view in the West of what had happened at Abbottabad and why.
Abbottabad episode gave a test to our media, of course a surprise one. The media were obligated to perform in accordance with the time tested principles laid down by media icons and practiced world over. In critical times of crises media are expected, not without justification, to maintain a well-considered out balance in their coverage.
People want to be informed about facts in the first instance. They would like to be enlightened by explanations of the happenings to reasonable lengths. They want to be aware of background of the events, more so of critical ones. People also need to see informed analysis of happenings. In precise terms, the viewers, listeners and readers of various forms of media want to be informed and educated with a view to forming their opinion regarding real issues. Our media ‘outlets’ in most cases, clearly failed in discharging their duty towards their clients.
The Abbottabad incident revived the bitter memories of media role during the East Pakistan crises of 1971. In the dark days of 1971, Pakistani media turned a blind eye to the crisis and chose to sway in the direction a dictator had set for them. After 1971, now again media were put to test. People this time deserve to know the real causes that led to extremism and terrorism in the country in the wake of Soviet intervention in Afghanistan. Media should bring in well informed experts to tell the truth as to how people like Osama bin Laden were launched in Pakistan by the U.S: Who gave them free hand to set up seminaries that indoctrinated immature minors to become extremists. What were the factors that were responsible for state failure to check unwarranted activities in the name of religion? What is on stake for Pakistan in the context of extremism, religious bigotry and terrorism if gone unchecked? The media in Pakistan have not raised these questions for public debate in the aftermath of Abbottabad issue. This is the most appropriate time to debate these issues. It is time the forces behind extremism and terrorism are exposed. It is time that extremism and terrorism are not allowed to be justified in the name of religion.
Another aspect of the whole episode is media’s role towards the armed forces. There should be no confusion in the minds of the people that Pakistani state, Pakistani nation and Pakistan’s armed forces are committed to eradicating extremism and terrorism.
The sacrifices of the armed forces and civilians in our struggle against terrorism cannot be overlooked. Our media should have highlighted all this while staging talk shows or writing columns about Abbottabad episode.
Media should also promote rational public opinion regarding extremism and terrorism.
The way our media took up the Osama bin Laden episode, has not helped the people, nor the government in finetuning of a holistic strategy. In the wake of Abbottabad episode, the media in general have caused more confusion in the minds of the people on such sensitive issues as extremism and terrorism.
Our media could have focused more on our security stakes in the wake of Abbottabad incident. If our people suffer from hype and are swayed by instinctive emotions following the Abbottabad incident, our media cannot escape blame.