Meher-Mubashir: Time to re-visit ethics

Published: June 15, 2012
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It is high time to get "ethical." Professionalism must not be compromised in the name of commercialisation. PHOTO: SCREENSHOT

Whether it is the Maya Khan episode or Shaheen Sehbai’s interview on YouTube, journalists have managed to hog all the attention for themselves and have made headlines for all the wrong reasons. Now, we have the Meher-Lucman video which is trending on Twitter, and is being passed around on multiple social media forums.

Yesterday, a video, titled ‘Malik Riaz Planted Interview with Mehar Bukhari and Mubashir Lucman on Dunya’ was uploaded by a user named ‘ivestigativereporter’. This jolted many people who watched in shock as the interview between Meher Bokhari, Mubashir Lucman and Malik Riaz seemed entirely scripted.

It all started with the promotional tickers and promos for the exclusive interview with the real estate tycoon, Malik Riaz, the man who is at the very centre of the high profile controversy involving the son of Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry.

It was certainly a big deal for any anchor to get an interview with Malik Riaz as his case is the center of all media attention at the moment.

However, what transpired in the behind-the-scenes video was shameful for the entire journalist community. On watching it, the following questions immediately jumped to my mind:

 How come the hosts became bigger news than the guest himself ?

Did either of the two resist or refuse to interview him in a “scripted” manner?

Who exactly leaked this video and was it an in-house job for publicity?

Whatever conversation took place between the three, Lucman, Bokhari and Riaz, and whatever was heard in the video during the “break” requires serious explanation from the two anchors. I am not concerned in the least about Malik Riaz after the video.

I don’t know whether any TV channel took their views in to account or not, but I believe that it should have been done.

Dunya News and the two anchors have managed to get a huge amount of publicity; unfortunately, this has all come from all the wrong reasons. It is sad that today, unethical journalism is getting more hits on social media forums than ethical journalism is.

What we saw may go down in the history of journalism as a glittering case of non-professionalism and unethical journalism.

Given all of this, the question now arises about ‘trust’. With the increasing involvement of powerful political players how can we trust anything that is on air anymore?

This also raises a bigger question of who approached Malik Riaz for an interview in the first place? Was it Mubashir or Meher?

There is little doubt in the mind of journalists after watching the interview and its aftermath that it was planned. But the question is why and who authorised it? Was it one of the three people mentioned above who took the initiative on their own, or were they ordered by some “high ups” from outside?

What will happen next is something that we are all looking forward to seeing. Will this controversy be replaced by another controversy or will it change the course of ethical journalism?

This leak has, without a doubt, damaged the credibility of the anchors that our youth looked up to for being liberal and fearless. It has reduced the value of talk shows that generate so much debate amongst our most literate rung of society.

The two-judge bench while giving the judgment on the Riaz-Arsalan case have raised serious questions of ethical journalism, and that too from the conduct of some of the big names in journalism. In fact, the Supreme Court has summoned the footage and the script for this interview.

Indeed a humiliating day for journalists all over Pakistan.

What happened in Lucman-Meher video brought to my mind the key principle from the Founding fathers of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) in 1950:

The acceptance of bribe is the gravest crime for a journalist.

The basic code for journalists embraces the very value of journalism i.e. to provide information with honesty whatever the mode of dissemination. What happened in the last few days with journalists in general, and in the Meher-Mubashir case in particular has raised serious ethical questions.

It has been accepted as the basic code for journalists that plagiarism, malicious misrepresentation, slander, libel, unfounded accusations, and corrupt practices such as “acceptance of bribes,” in any form are considered to be grave professional offences.

Unfortunately, the level of corruption within the media has increased over the years so much so that redemption seems almost impossible. At times we even look for excuses to defend such practices. The reasons are many, such as poor working conditions, irregular jobs and no criterion in selection.

However, does this justify hiding the truth?

Does it make it okay for these public servants to distort the truth for their personal gains?

I believe the answer is no.

It is high time to get “ethical.” Professionalism must not be compromised in the name of commercialisation.

Read more by Mazhar here.

Do you believe that Meher Bokhari's and Mubashir Lucman's interview with Malik Riaz was scripted?

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Mazhar Abbas

Mazhar Abbas

The writer is director, current affairs, Express News and has previously worked with ARY News. He is a former secretary-general of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists.

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