The birth of our nationalist media

Published: March 20, 2012

More importantly, is our media - especially electronic media - professional enough to understand and handle the business of news? PHOTO: REUTERS

Ever since gung-ho nationalism was beamed into our living rooms (thanks to private channels) some 10 years back, a probing question stirred in my mind: what is wrong with our media?

Is it normal to be in a state of continual war with every idea? Is our media a reflection of our society, or is it trying to lead a complete social transformation? It seems that the latter is true, and that the transformation is inspired by a particular mindset that perpetually defends the idea of “national security” while national welfare suffers.

More importantly, is our media – especially the electronic media – professional enough to understand and handle the business of news? Is it aware that the business of disseminating news carries responsibility and professional trust? Does it respect privacy and run thorough checks on content before it is beamed? And finally, is it propagating a personal agenda or acting like an honest institution? The list is long but the answer to most of these questions is short: no.

Let’s try and explore the reasons behind this no. Going back in history a little bit, the idea of private media was born out of a war; Pakistan and India locked horns in the mountains of Kargil in 1999 for the fourth time in their 52-year history. According to Pakistan’s strategic thinkers, the country had won the war on the battlefield but lost it on the air waves – meaning that the propaganda of Indian private media turned the sympathies of the world towards India, while the fighters in Kashmir were seen as aggressors.

There were strong feelings that the Indian private media served as a tool of the state and portrayed what the Indian establishment wanted it to. So Pakistan responded. The point was well taken and the task to build an independent and private media began. Almost overnight, the financiers with their brief cases oozing currency jumped into the fray and the first private TV network was allowed to go on air in 2002.

Although it was pretty clear what our media would do when it came to international relations, a problem arose when it started to do the same in domestic matters and politics; backing one horse against the other and picking favourites. By doing so, it started creating deep divisions within society and created an absolute lack of professionalism.

Novices played with this new tool as they pleased, setting new abysmal standards of news production and treatment.The art of news gathering and dissemination is sometimes treated like a joke as facts and accuracy are at times not even considered important. Ironically, in the process of exposing others, the media exposes itself.

Now, there is no easy way to put the rails back on track. A new wave of media must replace its amateur predecessor; news media based on transparency and professionalism is the only answer.

Mohammed Rizwan

Mohammed Rizwan

A senior reporter for The Express Tribune based in Lahore.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • asif

    a fine analysis of what is happening in visual media in developing countries. if in the war of ratings, pakistan TV media has broken all rules of ethics, India media is also not far behind. there the rating war has made trivia the main news. recently when Shakrukh khan slapped farah khan’s husband, it looked that India’s main issue was this. even there were “serious” progammes on the issue and news of patch up between them was the biggest breaking news.Recommend

  • ukmuslim

    According to Pakistan’s strategic thinkers, the country had won the war on the battlefield but lost it on the air waves – meaning that the propaganda of Indian private media turned the sympathies of the world towards India, while the fighters in Kashmir were seen as aggressors.

    If you don’t know, the cause of the war was the infiltration of Pakistani soldiers and its supported militants into Indian side of the LOC. During the initial stages, Pakistan blamed (as always) non-state actors, but documents left behind by casualties and later statements by Pakistan’s Prime Minister and Chief of Army Staff showed involvement of Pakistani forces, led by General Ashraf Rashid. Your prime minister was running like headless chicken for help to stop the war. It was not indian propaganda.Recommend

  • http://www.zaidzamanhamid.wordpress.com Zaid Hamid

    According to Pakistan’s strategic thinkers, the country had won the war on the battlefield but lost it on the air waves – meaning that the propaganda of Indian private media turned the sympathies of the world towards India, while the fighters in Kashmir were seen as aggressors.
    ..
    ..
    All hail Zaid Hamid and Hamid Gul…

    Pakisatn defeated India 4 times.. Pakistan defeated Israel.. Pakistan defeated Russia… after couple of years we will hear that Pakistan defeated America..Recommend

  • http://707monty.blogspot.com Pakistan politics

    Is this the kind of media we need? like democracy our media is also very immature http://707monty.blogspot.com/2012/03/is-this-kind-of-media-we-need.htmlRecommend

  • syed hussain

    A very good analysis of weak aspects of our media. No doubt, our media is immature,specially electronic media. They don’t respect the privacy of anybody and in the war of breaking news they violate all the standards of morality. Before any proceeding in the court,they starts trial, considering themselves as a judge, forgetting that there is difference between disseminating news and ridiculing that person, the news is related with. Pakistani media is rife with such novices who lack knowledge of journalism but in front of camera they pretend to be very good analyzer. This all exercise will bring very severe consequences.
    This article is like mulling over on the ramification associated with media’s immaturity. Recommend

  • farooq tirmizi

    brilliant readRecommend

  • shah

    this issue could have been addressed much better than this…. tribune blogs used to be informative and interesting ..@ tribune find new bloggers Recommend

  • Ayesha

    How can you say that due to the nationalist media, national welfare suffers? It is human nature to be proud of your identity and the media has found its way to the feel good nature of nationalism. Absokutely nothing wrong with it. Recommend