Is media truly society’s watchdog?

Published: December 26, 2010

Does the media fulfil the responsibilities it claims to?

In present times, Pakistani media is known as a vibrant, revolutionary and overwhelmingly powerful tool in shaping society’s opinion on a host of issues and for serving as a watchdog of government actions.

However, the question remains whether the media fulfils the responsibilities it claims to or does it only look after its monetary or political interest.

On July 28 Airblue Flight ED-202 crashed into the Margalla Hills in Islamabad, killing all 152 passengers and crew members, as the entire nation looked on in horror. Instantly, the electronic media paid unprecedented attention towards the incident the entire day.

The Prime Minster expressed his grief over the incident and did not hesitate to announce that he would make the inquiry report of crash public within three months.

The following day saw front pages of all mainstream newspapers flooded with stories regarding the tragedy.

The same day, newsrooms focused on reporting another tragic incident – the devastating floods.

Rescue efforts were initiated nationwide and the media, without a doubt, played a tremendous role running campaigns on the TV as well as in newspapers for the support of flood victims.

However, at the same time, distressed families who lost their loved ones in the crash expected that the media’s attention would soon return to their plight and press demand for the inquiry into the crash.

Unfortunately, this did not happen. With time the crash was forgotten, leaving many questions unanswered. Requests for an Supreme Court suo motu action also went in vain.

If we think we can get the same sort of justice from the system as is available to the first world, we would be fooling ourselves.

Qaiser Zulfiqar

Qaiser Zulfiqar

A reporter from Islamabad on the national desk of The Express Tribune.

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

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  • http://ibteda.wordpress,com Sadaf Baig

    Totally agree with you Qaiser.
    The rat race to breaking news has meant loosing focus of very important stories. EVen if events drawing attention to such stories are covered they get buried beneath the political rhetoric and fail to get the attention they deserve,
    I hope we, the media as a whole, shake us out of this rut we seem to have fallen into and start practicing real journalism instead of simply baiting for viewers. Recommend

  • Ali

    This and countless other instances should be enough to finally put this debate to rest.
    Pakistani Media has long joined the ranks of those in our country’s system that choose to operate without ethics or self-scrutiny.
    Perhaps its the society that has to be Media’s watchdog! Recommend

  • Critic

    Your right…..the medis is probablythe only thing I have hope for in this country. Otherwise, everything and every other industry in Pakistan from A-Z is a gone caseRecommend

  • rukun

    imagine loosing a loved one, worrying about receiving their body ,about how life is going to change in your whole world

    and a pesky reporter keeps asking you ” how do you feel?” , ” how do you feel?”, ” what happened to you”

    either the country is filled with attention whores, or the media is just fulfilling another capitalist’s dreamRecommend

  • parvez

    Short sweet and to the point.Recommend

  • Ghufran Shah

    well if Media is a Watchdog of Govt action then where is a Watchdog of Media action…???Recommend

  • Ali Hassan

    I am sorry but I do not agree.
    I can understand Airblue crash was a big unfortunate event, but floods were many times bigger than that, one fourth of the country was effected (more than the total land area of Italy and more than the total population of Australia). I can understand our media is not that matured but it is really hitting some right buttons (and offcourse also making mistakes on the way), but are really forcing the administration to take actions on issues which were not taken seriously in previous times. Do you expect the tv channels to file FIR for every crime and follow, they can just report and then it is upto the civil society to carry on from there.Recommend

  • Liaquat Ali

    @rukun, “feeling” is one of the most important emotions. That’s why marketing is focused more on how one “feels” by purchasing and/or consuming a product or service. However, the insistence on “how do you feel” is annoying.

    @Ali Hassan, I agree. Regardless of what the prior news the devastation of the flood was so overwhelming that needed full media attention and more. Recommend

  • Sadaf Khan

    @ Ali Hassan – The floods were a bigger disaster but what is so important just now? The political rhetoric? Taking one statment & getting countless leaders to comment on it?
    The aircrash wasnt any simple crime – 152 lives were lost & that is a huge tragedy. If whole shows can focus on how PIA bought bags on double the price they are available in main market for, if whole hours can be spent disscussing who the president is referring to when he says siyasi adakar, why cant someone question why, the media has chosen to overlook the fact that a huge tragedy lies unsolved? Recommend

  • Rizwan

    Indeed media should act like a watchdog but with some certain professional ethics. It seems media has got so much power now it often tries to take the administrative matters into its hands.
    First of all the senior members of Pakistani media from all over the country should establish an institute for the people coming in this sector and making them understand what stand to take on certain issues as some of those matters are very important for national security.
    In short make electronic media as an institute. It needs not to sensationalise the whole nation.Recommend

  • Belal

    Media is a business and they do every thing beyond ethics to gain audience.Recommend

  • mahwish rahat

    soo true..our media is just at its best to propagandize issues which can only give them maximum ratings. On the very first day of crash our media declared that black box has been found and on the very 2nd day they just change their statement that its not been found. Our government knows very well how to tackle media and they all are materialistic. Recommend

  • Arsalan

    media scholars have to think weather this traditional watchdog role belongs to media or civil society. according to civic journalism (PEW center for civic journalism) watchdoging govt actions is not media’s role. Recommend