Today, I make peace with the media

Published: June 6, 2014
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A free, fair and independent media is essential to a constitutional democracy. Therefore, I am calling it a day on media criticism as an individual. PHOTO: FILE

A free, fair and independent media is essential to a constitutional democracy. Therefore, I am calling it a day on media criticism as an individual. PHOTO: FILE A free, fair and independent media is essential to a constitutional democracy. Therefore, I am calling it a day on media criticism as an individual. DESIGN: ERUM SHAIKH

I wrote a blog for this section a few weeks ago, in which I called the independent media,

“Inane, unethical, disgusting and disastrous”

It was, and still is, a terrible oversight on my part, an unkind act if you will. I do apologise. I was being a schmuck and it took me a while to decide if I should clear the air. I am acerbic and I can be thoughtless and cruel at times.

Even though this description – disgusting and so on – holds true in some cases, it certainly doesn’t apply to everyone. Media in Pakistan is under attack from all sides. The holy assassins are a single facet, and a deadly one at that – but they aren’t the only one. A voyeuristic public ready to point fingers in a 24/7 news cycle, different cliques within media circles and a static, unaffected government has made matters significantly worse.

If gross misconduct and misreporting merits a discussion, I must also highlight the fact that journalists are threatened, berated and usually have to field unintelligible, unanswerable questions – and that’s putting it mildly. In other cases, people just shoot them, while condemnation is the buzzword for our politicians. In Pakistan, journalists are killed for telling the truth.

They are human beings first, and their lives, whether you agree with their argument or not, matter just as much as yours and mine. I cannot speak for others but I must accord them with respect because, guess what, they’ve earned it.

I have a rule. If people agree with anything I write, it usually means I need to take another look. The internet is like the Lord of the Flies. Therefore, I’m done criticising the media; I must extend my support to all of them, once and for all. For a truly intelligent and interactive debate, please follow initiatives like Mind Your Media to understand what it takes to be a journalist in this current chaotic environment.

I will simply point out five stories – from this newspaper – which prove the theory that some exceptional journalism, backed by beautiful writing, is also taking place in Pakistan.

A free, fair and independent media is essential to a constitutional democracy. I stand by most of what I wrote previously, except the part about independent media. This is for one simple reason: we need an autonomous media, even though the assumption is that we don’t. It really isn’t about one newspaper or one organisation. There are places in this country where people have been abandoned by the state. Condemnation cannot raise the dead. I changed my mind because everyone else thinks this is the right move. However, I also know a lot of people who think media in Pakistan should be restricted.

Had it not been for the media, stories from Balochistan, Fata and many others would simply have vanished. These people matter. Lateef Baloch matters. What we need is regulation and guidelines and probably a lesson in empathy and compassion. Given the seismic shifts within Pakistan, if the press isn’t independent, Pakistan will go back to a time and place where all will be lost, truly.

Therefore, I am calling it a day on media criticism as an individual. You are free to draw your own, ill-advised conclusions.

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.