When money is involved in journalism

Published: January 11, 2011

What’s even more disgraceful, I feel, is that many among us actually demand it.

One of the many lessons I’ve learnt in the profession of journalism is that there are always strings attached when a flock of top media personalities are in full attendance when, let’s say, a boring yet important issue like maternal healthcare is discussed at a five-star hotel.

I was recently invited to attend one such ‘interactive’ event organised by a leading NGO in Karachi. It was a lively discussion and I was really impressed that many important people not only flew all the way from Islamabad, but also braved through the five-hour long session.

As the event progressed, those belonging to the media were requested to sign a piece of paper. Thinking it was an attendance sheet, I too signed it. It was then that an envelope was placed in front of me, and much to my consternation, I spotted a crisp Rs5,000 note tucked inside it.

For a minute I thought I was the only one singled out. Giving the NGO the benefit of the doubt, I wondered whether, judging by my rather bored expression, they ‘mistakenly’ thought that it was the only way they could get some coverage out of me in my paper for their event. However, I saw others around me smiling approvingly after accepting the offerings.

Before I left the venue after throwing the envelope back at the NGO people’s face, I wondered how exactly one assesses which journalist gets how much.

Similarly, while covering stories on last year’s floods a group of flood victims queuing up outside the local DCO office in Nawabshah, caught my eye. But at a closer look I saw familiar press cards hanging around their necks, leaving me horrified that some journalists were being bought for Rs500 in exchange for a biased coverage.

Truth is there are many among us who accept bribes and have no qualms about it. Some accept money, while others are obliged with a bottle of wine or whisky — depending on how ‘high-up’ that person is in the hierarchy of the media business.

Many are yet to feel any shame about stocking up on freebies.

While it’s unfortunate that this culture exists in our profession, what’s even more disgraceful, I feel, is that many among us actually demand it. It seems as though these journalists hang a price tag, and not a press card, around their necks. Like good moneychangers, they offer competitive rates in exchange for writing one sided reports.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: January 11, 2011

In an earlier version of this post it was reported that journalists in Nawabshah were being given Rs5,000. The correct figure was Rs500.


Salman Siddiqui

A Karachi-based investigative reporter for 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.

  • http://www.bonfriends.org/2011/01/08/parents/ Marina Khan

    I think they did write. Journalism these days are the way of money printing not the news printing. Reporters do not cover the positive activities of pakistan and only give masale dar news, so i think that NGO did the right thing to pay you to get coverage. What a shame on journalism that NGOs have to pay for coverage n bomb blasts r covered for free.Recommend

  • Ehtisham Rizvi

    So what did you buy from the bribe? :PRecommend

  • http://twitter.com/#!/javerianauman Javeria Nauman

    Media ( whether electronic or print alike ) is a powerful medium. and with great power comes great responsibility. Recommend

  • Ahsanullah Mehsud

    Man you are right. The one working for English papers get handsome amount at the end of month. but the Journalists working for Urdu papers are paid meager amount and they cant make both ends meet. Recommend

  • Amer

    I always read the so called “news” on many pages online with a pinch of salt. Very few of these so called Journalists work without any biase or without being bought. Then there are so called “editors” of news pages who add crazy titles and rubish while “editing” blogs and pages. Recommend

  • http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/author/13/syed-ali/ S. Ali Raza

    Its better to be a blogger than a journo ;)Recommend

  • Ilmana Fasih

    Very sad. I thought my medical profession was one of the last noble professions to behave that way.It isn’t unique to journalism and when docotrs could do that after all journalists are also human beings with a family, a house budget and most of all desire to make a fast buck.Recommend

  • Schazad

    @Ahsanullah Mehsud:
    Oh thats why you get what you pay for. They get paid *it and they write *it.Recommend

  • Zain S

    why protect the ngo by not mentioning its name if you are not for this kind of behaviour? its like saying zardari is corrupt, but his car is awesome…Recommend

  • Shahbaz

    Obviously if someone writes something worthwhile he or she really deserves to get something..Recommend

  • Ahmed Iqbal

    My late father was one of the founding editors of one of the publications of the largest news and media group of Pakistan (I guess all have guessed it). The group’s patriarch, long dead, used to pay peanuts to its staff and also used to delay salaries. His famous words to his staff used to be “Tum logon ko tankhwa kee kya zaroorat hay?”. When I look back, I see that his staff has stuck with the group through thick and thin. You can imagine the black mailing powers.Recommend

  • http://www.noor-ul-ainhanif.blogspot.com Noor-ul-ain Hanif

    tell me further abt the bribe part :pRecommend

  • Mahvesh

    I’m not sure but in most cases, participants and invitees at such events get per diems. It could be quite possible that was the case since you don’t elaborate if you actually asked them what the amount was for, and secondly, you mention that people from out of town were present. Please specify this point since I find what you suggest quite ridiculous, considering that I work in this particular sector and have never come across people being ‘bribed’ to attend such events. Recommend

  • SyedShah

    i totally agree with Mahvesh…. i have been attending such events in islamabad..i too have neva come across such a situation…so it must had been some kinda per diem which i personally think doesn’t even exist in seminars etc… i`m not trying to say that there are no black sheeps in this profession but you need to specify and elaborate while bringing such kinda news to the spotlight…Recommend

  • Bismah

    Had the receipt been of Rs. 50000, we wouldn’t have gotten this article here. Recommend