Delhi Colony blast: The true face of Pakistani media

Published: April 25, 2014
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Delhi Colony is not in Defence. But unfortunately, our news channels went on air reporting a blast without confirming the location. PHOTO: AFP/FILE

Delhi Colony is not in Defence. But unfortunately, our news channels went on air reporting a blast without confirming the location. PHOTO: AFP/FILE Delhi Colony is not in Defence. But unfortunately, our news channels went on air reporting a blast without confirming the location. PHOTO: AFP/FILE

I heard the bomb blast that was reported more than 30 minutes ago. I live close to Delhi Colony. I’m not sure how many innocent citizens have lost their lives or how many are injured. They say four people are dead. We still don’t know if there will be others.

There are people from my apartments who are still missing. My neighbor has gone looking for her mother. My driver just stepped out of Delhi Colony and was grinning like a fool because he caught a lucky break, another five minutes, he’d be on these very news channels.

This blog, however, is not about my personal sentiments.

Here’s how Pakistani news channels reported the incident. I’m saying this because I switched between channels before stepping out and well, never mind the rest.

First of all, Delhi Colony is not in Defence. But apparently, Dawn News, Dunya News, Express News and Samaa TV were having a hard time with this. Until yesterday, Delhi Colony was in Clifton. Unfortunately, these news channels went on air reporting a blast without confirming the location,

“It’s in Defence Phase IV; no, it’s in Gizri; no, it’s in Delhi Colony.”

Such was the confusion that I was almost anticipating that they’d report that the blast took place in space!

To make matters worse, Samaa TV thought it perfectly appropriate to show victims covered in blood lying on stretchers as paramedics tried to move the injured and dead to ambulances. Dunya News also carried out the same disgusting tactics while young men helped an injured victim into an ambulance.

Express News showed footage of a woman lying on a stretcher. It was obvious that the woman was in pain, actual physical pain. But who cares about her pain? They’d rather capture the ‘breaking news’ moment.

Let’s zoom in at the bruises on her feet.

Every channel was running the same footage but somehow they all seemed to be carrying it ‘exclusively’. Jaag TV was a little late to the party because they were busy running Dr Shahid Masood.

Yes, this gets worse.

“This rickshaw may have been involved.”

I can make unsubstantiated predictions, but I am not talking to millions of people.  What kind of news coverage is this?

Meanwhile, no one, not Mr. Sharjeel Memon, not the on-site reporters, not even the cops, no one thought the area should be sealed. Forensics cannot possibly work if this many people have contaminated the site.

When did I move near Gizri? I’m still scratching my head, by the way, or is it Defence?

Pakistan’s national television channel, PTV News, was not interested in covering this tragedy. Instead, they spent some time covering Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif.

I changed the channel again.

This brings us to the second issue – hate mongering. The broadcast media has a tendency of getting hysterical. Anchors and politicians have nothing better to do than play the blame game. And here’s the truly terrifying part – they maintain decorum when joined by a member of the good, bad, ugly, sorry, happy Taliban. No matter what the situation, the new norm in media is for anchors to run wild with whatever pops into their dark brains.

On the other hand, Pakistani news channels and viewers are perfectly comfortable and deem it ethical to run pictures of someone who has been sexually assaulted.

That’s not misreporting at all. That’s just the norm.

In 2011, The Express Tribune ran a story on journalistic ethics. Years later, it seems as if things have taken a turn for the worse.

Why ask someone who is grieving the loss of a loved one about what they’re feeling. Unless reporters are robots, they should know the answer. But since they insist on asking this question, they might as well be robots.

If we agree to this, at least there will be no expectation of decency.

So here’s to more inane, unethical, disgusting and disastrous years of independent media in Pakistan.

Maheen Sabeeh

Maheen Sabeeh

A freelance journalist who blogs at maheensabeeh.wordpress.com and tweets @maheensbh (twitter.com/maheensbh)

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