Shahzeb and Hamza: What makes murder worthy of coverage?

Published: April 4, 2013
Email

The logic is simple: demand versus supply. But does media coverage really matter?

He was just around 20. He was his parents’ only son.

He was shot dead — allegedly by the son of an influential person — at point-blank range. His body was found in the DHA locality.

Shahzeb Khan? No. This is Hamza Elahi.

A resident of Lahore, Hamza was found dead in DHA Phase VI on June 2, 2012. He was allegedly murdered by his friend Shan Khusro, over jealousy (as claimed by the administrators of his memorial page). Shan — son of former Lahore commissioner and Additional Federal Secretary Khusro Pervaiz — admitted to shooting, but by accident. Shan said he was trying to remove a bullet from the chamber of a gun he was carrying, when it went off accidentally, hitting Hamza in the head. In panic, he threw the body out of the car and drove away, he said.

This murder happened around six months before Shahzeb’s killing. However, not many people know about it.

Why? Because the media treated both cases differently.

Shahzeb made it to the front page right from the beginning, but Hamza was buried between many trivial stories on the inside pages. For The Express Tribune alone, the website has a separate URL for Shahzeb where all the stories related to the case can be found. But Hamza only managed to garner 12 stories in the paper and the website altogether.

The Karachi killing is usually slugged as “Shahzeb Khan murder case” but the Lahore one is tagged just as “Murder case.”

One wonders why so?

My guess is the social media outburst that followed Shahzeb’s murder. Media picked up on the killing because of the uproar created by Shahzeb’s loved ones online. In a matter of a few days, almost everyone knew the details of the murder, thus swelling the pressure group. However, Hamza was still just known to his family and friends.

The media fed its audience, who wanted to know about the developments in Shahzeb’s case, while there was not much calling for what is going on in Hamza’s murder trial.

The logic is simple: demand versus supply. But does media coverage really matter?

Yes. Sadly, we live in a society where murders have become a part of our daily lives. There are just too many killings taking place for our system to hand out justice swiftly. We have the Sialkot brothers, the Lyari twins and hundreds of others. But what’s more ironic is the fact that our system, at times, selects who deserves justice on the basis of the victim’s background, media coverage and the public response to the murder.

Why is a murder not just a murder? Why do we classify a killing on the basis of ‘who’ is murdered rather than just the death of a human being?

Read more by Ferya here or follow her on Twitter @ferya_ilyas

Ferya Ilyas

Ferya Ilyas

A sub editor on the Web Desk of The Express Tribune. She tweets @ferya_ilyas (twitter.com/ferya_ilyas)

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