Pakistan’s ticking media bomb

Published: October 2, 2010
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The media has become a negative agenda driven business that jumps from one breaking story to another

It is rather disturbing to see television show anchors pretending to be political analysts. Their so-called analysis is usually hype-creating propaganda. Somehow, they have developed the notion that they are superior to politicians and their naive, idealistic ideas are the solution to Pakistan’s problems.

They demean politicians to the extent that self-respecting political leaders have stopped appearing on guest panels. This in turn leads to the anchor of one television channel appearing as analysts on another channel as guests. Without any political background or knowledge, they go on harping about the future of Pakistan, not realising the consequences of their nonsensical rhetoric. Instead of working hard and creating investigative reports on the issues concerning Pakistan, our media has found easy alternatives for grabbing attention – the red bar suggesting Pakistan may collapse any second.

Pakistan’s media is not an example of freedom of speech. It represents the media’s negative, extremely biased agenda only. Those who speak of Pakistan’s ability to develop are no longer invited to speak. Those who suggest that the government is going to fall apart and cause sensation are welcomed.

I pity the ‘senior’ analysts who suggest implementing the ‘Bangladesh model’ in Pakistan. The proposed model involves the army and courts replacing the existing government with technocrats. What they need to know is that the Bangladesh model failed in Bangladesh – wonder who coined this term in the first place. In 2007, the Bangladesh army removed the corrupt government and set up a caretaker government under a former World Bank economist in the hope that election reforms would take place and corruption would be uprooted from the system.

In 2010, nothing has changed. Bangladesh still has the same politicians, corruption and economy. Does Pakistan have a few years to spare for this experiment too?

During the recent floods, the so-called reporters for our news channels would find a random spot and start broadcasting the government’s inability to reach the victims. How hard is it to understand the extent of the natural disaster that hit the country?

The government was desperately seeking funds from the people to deliver to the flood victims when the media started generating hype about corruption. Such exclusive news reports lowered the people’s confidence in the government relief efforts and significantly hampered the fund raising process.

To add to this, a very senior anchor reported from a relief camp that a volunteer doctor belonging to the Pakistan Peoples Party was working at a religious party’s camp. He concluded that it could be a bigger conspiracy. You have to be a very bold, shameless cynic to give such statements.

Those who discuss politics and those who vote are different. As ironic as it is, the continuous political dump on television, newspapers and blogs is watched and read by people who are too lazy and indifferent towards the election process. Those who actually cast votes do not have a political voice. They are not a part of the elitist discussions we have every day. We can talk about removing this government and replacing it with a fusion of the courts and the army all we want. When that ugly mixture dissolves, the same corrupt politicians will return with flying colors.

If the present structure falls apart, Pakistan may never recover. Pakistani media needs to put a stop to the breaking-news culture. Every minute statement, thought or event makes it to the red strip on all news channels. What’s worse is that it repeats for hours in two different languages.

The newly founded freedom of speech and expression through media is often seen as a blessing. It certainly is, but the amateur level of journalism is increasingly turning our irresponsible media into a ticking bomb. We have let loose an untamed animal that must be leashed as soon as possible.

samir.butt

Samir Butt

A former Youth Foreign Minister of Pakistan, Fulbright undergraduate scholar, freelance writer, public speaking trainer, IT consultant and marketing professional. He blogs at samiranwar.net.

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

  • http://na prasad

    Completely agree with you. I believe Pakistan is being let down by the discourse on television. On the question of terrorism – a certain news channel had a person from the Jamaat Islami and a politician from the PPP. The former blamed Raw,Mossad and CIA and the latter simply called the former a liar. That was the tone of the entire interview.

    By the tone of your article and that of numerous other columnists such as Nadeem Paracha and Dr Hoodbhoy, Pakistan has many analysts who are willing to look at both sides of the picture even on thorny issues such as Kashmir and the Ayodhya verdict – but as you rightly said that does not make for sensational television. Recommend

  • parvez

    As usual you have come up with a very relevant topic and put your argument across well.
    I think the network bosses are equally to blame and not just the anchors. After all its a pretty competitive business with some 50 odd channels. Your grouse is with the poor quality of political talk shows and I agree, most of them lack credibility and slowly as the audience becomes more discerning they will switch to our local ‘soaps’ (some very good) or the cooking channels (very popular) or watch a Sindhi channel (amazing) for mindless entertainment. Recommend

  • http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/story/1534/welcoming-home-mr-musharraf/ Syed Nadir El-Edroos

    Seems like everyone on the tele are on a power trip….the only way to get more viewers is to become more and more right wing and overtly nationalistic! Recommend

  • http://deleted Sajjad Ahmed

    @Syed Nadir El-Edroos: They aren’t right wing at all and thats what the writer has pointed out:

    “Pakistan’s media is not an example of freedom of speech. It represents the media’s negative, extremely biased agenda only. Those who speak of Pakistan’s ability to develop are no longer invited to speak. Those who suggest that the government is going to fall apart and cause sensation are welcomed.”
    (pure leftist ideology)
    Please stop being more confused in this left-wing-right-wing politics…

    Lets critically evaluate every point for the betterment of this country rather than churning out negativity. After all, you, me and the writer are all one nation. Let us spread fraternal feelings across rather than mere ill will. Thanks for write up Samir; it really was a mature piece !
    Peace ..Recommend

  • Mehwish Iqra

    Totally agree with you.If our media represents such a negative image of our government and shows the conflicts between our politicians then how can we prove that the propaganda of international media against our country is wrong? Why don’t our political analysts and our media thinks before giving any statement or conclusion? But you rightly said that our media or political analysts consider themselves as politician without having any political background. I must say you done a great job by raising this topic.Recommend

  • http://sadaf-fayyaz.blogspot.com/ SadafFayyaz

    cant agree with you much,,,a senior Anchorperson : Mistake made by an anchor person

    Most of the morning shows are a trash kind. with stupid and overfriendly hosts. The same applies for political talk shows these days…Whenever I open a channel i see some political ladies fighting like Mohally ki Khawateen…..In a political talk show…………and most of show people tend to prove as great right wingers and dumb nationalists.with a word that I and my family hates now…”mein samajhta hun..” “mein samajhti hun…” The most pathetic thing was when a female anchor asked….a flood affectee old lady….who lost her kids in floods…”Apko kesa lag raha hey…….” I guess you have seen the video with mom of late Rabab Naqvi, who died in air blue crash….

    Thanks for writing on this issue.Recommend

  • Ghausia

    I’m tickled pink by your support for the government, its almost cute. :P That being said, while you’ve made a valid point, you can’t deny the fact that the government really did screw the flood issue up. Remember the coverage on the fake camp set up for the sake of the cameras? The coverage on that was particularly amusing, the way the reporter kept badgering the people in charge with questions. But on a larger scale, you’re right, I remember after Zardari’s shoe incident there was a blog on morning shoes and how their insipid hosts lauded the effort and encouraged people not to vote. Not cool.Specially considering the fact that said morning show hosts have brains the size of a pea. The concluding paragraph is the best part of this. Hopefully your academic credentials won’t be questioned in this one lol.Recommend

  • F. Alam

    Cannot agree more with you!! I wish there were more people thinking like this. People try to bully me in silence when I criticise one ‘senior’ anchor with negative agenda!! I will keep on speaking whether people accept this or not. Recommend

  • Samir

    @F. Alam… You definitely should…

    @Ghausia… I am not a government supporter :p This government is as disappointing, or even more than any previous government seen by Pakistan. I’m just saying that at times you need to overlook things for national interest.

    A friend of mine was trying to collect funds in Canada during the floods time. He was continuously questioned about the transparency of the aid utilization. That was primarily because how our media portrayed the situation, reflected by the international media.

    @Sadaf… Yes, that is the state of our morning and political shows. Not too different apart when it comes to quality… Recommend

  • Khawar Ghumman

    I simply cannot agree more with you. The best comment I have recently read on the role of media in Pakistan.Recommend

  • Ghausia

    lol if you’re not a government supporter how can you believe the money would make it to the flood victims. Admit it, you like Zardari lol. Recommend

  • Asad

    Good one. A lot of our tv anchors and print media also confuse news items with opinion pieces. While I think Fox News is one of the worst examples of biased reporting in the world, almost all our news channels follow that model, and seem to have a similar ideology as well. Recommend

  • Aslam Zahid

    I can agree with this ……..I personally think there is any stron appositon in pakistan and our Media is playing Apposition role…
    May be some time our news anchors confuse the situation but our Gov is more cofused than our media….Recommend