When the Pakistani media decided to exploit a painful tragedy like APS

Published: December 18, 2015

Someone at Geo News, likely brain-dead, had the bright idea of having the anchors wear APS school uniform to ‘honour’ the victims. PHOTO: FACEBOOK

It is difficult to imagine what it is like to be one of the parents of the 122 school kids brutally murdered during the Army Public School (APS) massacre in Peshawar. On the morning of December 16, 2014, these families said goodbye to their children as they left for school, and a few hours later, were shattered by the news that their loved one(s) had been mercilessly gunned down by Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) terrorists.

I know of parents broken after losing their child to a terminal disease, and eventually found solace. The slow torture of witnessing a brave beloved helplessly battle such an illness is crippling, but some closure can be found during the time granted by the lengthy nature of the ordeal.

The fathers and mothers of the APS children, on the other hand, never got to say goodbye. One instant, their little ones were with them, the other, they were gone, only leaving behind painful questions destined to haunt their imagination in a cycle of ruinous grief.

It is unfortunate that the massacre has been hijacked into a circus. We all want a piece of the suffering and we all want to consume it in our own way. I wouldn’t blame the parents for locking themselves away from computers, smartphones, television sets, and the media, rather than relive the ordeal just to satisfy our need to consume their pain.

Should we honour the victims? Of course, we should. The death of these heroes finally gave this nation the will to retaliate against the militant group. When we say #NeverForget #APS, we mean never let it happen again. It’s just a pity that we can’t honour victims quietly without pushing our own agendas. Instead of empathising with the families, we use their tears to sell news stories or political propaganda.

To start with, someone at Geo News, likely brain-dead, had the bright idea of having the anchors wear APS school uniform to ‘honour’ the victims:

Photo: Screengrab

To see grown men and women wearing childrens’ school uniforms on a day when 122 of them were gunned down was both disturbing and comical. It was also incredibly offensive.

Soon, president of Geo EntertainmentAamir Liaquat announced his resignation on Twitter after claiming that this was a disrespectful attention seeking tactic from the media powerhouse that he could not stand behind.

Yes, you read correctly – Aamir Liaquat took a moral stand.

Imagine that. Even Aamir Liaquat, a man who has built his career on disrespectful attention seeking tactics, could not stomach the publicity stunt.

Later, as if to say, “Don’t worry guys, I am still cray-cray”, he tweeted about how India was responsible for the APS attacks.

Of course, other channels were determined not to be left behind with the emotion porn. Business Plus featured an interview with a group of APS survivors, who were nudged into singing songs.

92 News found it perfectly acceptable to have a kitschy poem read from the point of view of a dead APS schoolboy.

Abb Tak happily displayed confidential security documents.

Then, there was Neo TV, snatching the lowest hanging fruit hungrily with both teeth. An interview of a mother who lost her child in the terrorist act was overproduced to a nauseating degree. Every time the woman would share heartbreak, the video would pause for a few seconds, allowing the camera to zoom in to her nose, followed by a ridiculous song sung in a shrill voice by a boy crying for his ‘mamma’ and ‘baba’. This continued throughout the interview. It was almost as if Neo TV was telling us that a childlike ghost was crying as his mother spoke and it was nothing short of disgusting. I am sure the family that had granted Neo TV the interview must have been horrified watching what the producers had done to capitalise on their loss.

Here is a hint to Neo TV, Geo and the other Pakistani channels that ran ridiculous programming. As any good documentarian will tell you, on camera, a painful tragedy is powerful enough on its own, and doesn’t need to be manipulated. Did Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy present the survivors of acid attacks in Saving Face with depressing music from Titanic or special effects out of saas bahu dramas?

Of course she did not.

So why can’t you move beyond cheap exploitation?

Noman Ansari

Noman Ansari

The author is the editor-in-chief of IGN Pakistan, and has been reviewing films and writing opinion pieces for The Express Tribune as well as Dawn for five years. He tweets as @Pugnate (twitter.com/Pugnate)

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

  • Ms. Khan

    Thank god I am not the only one who is disgusted by our media and politicians …Recommend

  • Munazzah

    This article needs to be published again and again.thank you for penning down this grave issue brother,social media has seriously taken it too far now,using tragedies to increase viewership is disgusting! They need to stop this right now!may Allah protect us all from calamities and unforeseen incidentsRecommend

  • Ahmed

    Well you made a good point there but don’t you think that this nation needs to remember this tragedy? If we forgot this terrorist attack like all the hundreds of others before then we would never be able to move forward nor would we be able to combat extremism comprehensively . This is the reason why I personally think that it was a good gesture on behalf of GEO in wearing those uniforms . To remind us that we will never forget what happened on 12/16. I also don’t think that it was in any way offensive to the Parents , in fact the parents would feel more ridiculed if we forgot the sacrifices of their children . Recommend

  • Ahtisham ud din

    You don’t comfort wounded souls or pay tributes to martyrs by vulgar exhibitionism. News anchors wearing #APS uniforms is a disgusting sight .. the reality of Pakistani Media :(Recommend

  • mjkhan

    Media doing what it does best; make a sensational dram out of a real tragedy. Heartless, zilch ethics.Recommend

  • wb

    Aamir Liaqat Hussain is the biggest charlatan in Pakistan. He’s an utter idiot but speaks like an expert on all subjects. Even the orange that I’m eating now has more intelligence and integrity than this crook.Recommend

  • Ali S

    I think it’s absolutely tragic that you think we need such stupid and insulting gimmicks to make sure that we remember the day terrorists shot more than 120 of our schoolchildren in cold blood. There’s something called respect for the martyred and their families.

    If we really are that desensitized as a nation as you suggest then there’s really no hope – what if a bigger tragedy occurs (and yes, frightening as it sounds, it can), will we try to outdo it with even crazier media circus tricks?Recommend

  • humza hussain

    not all your points are correct as the channels should understand the pain of APS familiesRecommend

  • sam

    Stop complaining about everything and find something better to do with your time.Recommend

  • Count

    There was nothing wrong with wearing uniforms on the day. In fact it was a great gesture. Amir Liaqat and the author of this article sound stumped. Stupidity has no limits. Recommend

  • Alhim

    And what exactly are you doing by writing this article with your photo and name below. We are all in same boat, let’s stay afloat and not try to Torpedo all of us.

  • Sameera Hashim

    Sacrifice of the children? You’ve got to be kidding. It was not a sacrifice. A sacrifice is with consent. It was a tragedy. Cold blooded murder of children. Not a glorious day of pride. They were just innocent, vulnerable kids! Not soldiers on a front line! They did not choose to be martyred. Their parents will choose them alive rather than be hailed heroes! Next our state will be telling us to thank the terrorists who helped the children “Achieve” martyrdom! Sickening!

  • WS

    Everyone exploits – tragedies like these have basically even become vehicles for getting published by journalists/bloggers etc….with the media, of course, you expect much much worse now.Recommend

  • Ali Raza

    amir liaquat is an idiot.good riddence but guess what he’ll be back cuz we as a nation deserve these morons.Recommend

  • Parvez

    Agree……it was simply a display of bad taste. What I found most offensive was that on this day of all days, most schools were shut on government directives.Recommend

  • Swaadhin

    In my opinion, it is less of exploitation and more of lack of intellect and sensitivity. These kind of tantrums makes one wonder if the tears rolling down their cheeks are for real or not.

    You should have also mentioned about the section of the media who were sensible enough to not resort to such cheap tactics.Recommend

  • Saad Hasan

    Why are some Pakistanis so insensitive and stupid? The Pakistani media is the most immature, reactive and stupid mass communications medium in the world! The insensitivity of the anchors, editors and reporters continues to increase with each passing day. They shamelessly show up at people’s doors to interview them not realizing that those who have lost loved ones need privacy to grieve. They stupidly play idiotic music while broadcasting such interviews or scenes of carnage as if its a public mela. As much as the media has opened up Pakistan, it has also made the nation insensitive and callous about the tragedy and pain suffered by our citizens.Recommend

  • Shazan Sayani

    What about express news?? As its your owned you wont list in your ridiculous media channels? Well i was offended by each n every channel on that day. Recommend

  • Sultan Mehmood

    It is a sacrifice in the sense that when we started operation Zarb-e-Azab we expected this kind of backslash. We consented to such dangers for the greater good of eradication roots of evil. It is a day of pride because parents and siblings of these children, and those of other schools didn’t succumb to fear by asking for halting the operation. Instead they asked to intensify the fight against terrorists.Recommend

  • http://www.dailymotion.com/allahdittagujjar Sarah

    APS insident is the failure of GOP Media doing well…Recommend

  • Nana

    Well, Amir Liaquat resigned to join MQM again. He is the biggest opportunist in Pakistan,I’ve ever seen. Don’t know what is in his mind that he has joined MQM again. May be he thinks that he is the perfect replacement for Altaf Bhai and this is the time to go for it after fooling masses of Pakistan.Recommend

  • Ahmed

    Most of the children who either don’t do good in studies or are not perceived capable enough, are made lawyers, journalists and accountants or sent to media and deeni madarsas. So, all these professions or areas of expertise are deemed to be filled with people having less than desired capabilities, apart from some negligible exceptions. Thus there is a saying which perfectly fits in for concluding remarks which is “garbage in garbage out”. We need to raise the standards of induction and/or launch aggressive awareness campaign to attract good brains in these professions, especially for deeni madarsas, lawyers and journalism.Recommend

  • Fiorella Noemi Gaspar Perez

    I’ve ever seen. Don’t know what is in his mind that he has joined MQM again. May be he thinks that he is the perfect replacement for Altaf Bhai and this is the time to go for it after fooling masses of Pakistan. http://novelasinfo.comRecommend