Stories about reporting

The right to write: Denied!

Journalism – a profession of disseminating news – has attained the status of an endangered profession globally. Incidents of violence and state sponsored prosecution attempts against journalists have become a de jure way of life for many. Prosecution and persecution to some degree, comes with the territory, if you will. This is unfortunate considering the burden that falls on a journalist’s shoulders. On January 29, 2014, there were several news stories of the Egyptian government’s decision to file charges against 20 journalists working with Al Jazeera on the pretext of risking national security. In my opinion, suppressing the voice of one journalist is akin to suppressing the ...

Read Full Post

Putting journalists behind bars (or in coffins) – the loss is yours!

Last week, a delegation of foreign journalists visited our newspaper’s thrice-attacked office in Karachi, Pakistan. As we hustled to make them feel comfortable while simultaneously trying to explain the newsroom dynamics, one of them asked us in a matter-of-fact tone. “Do you support the current government?” There was a nervous silence as each of us lingered over the question for a few seconds. Until one of my colleagues responded, “We try and support no one. Our job is to report things as is.” All of us nodded in unison. In a simple sentence, she had summed up the essence of what journalists all across ...

Read Full Post

Is Abb Tak’s Uzma Tahir the new Maya Khan?

There’s a new trend catching on – TV aunties raiding your homes with their camera crews and demanding to know who you’re sharing your apartment with. Say ‘cheese’, Pakistan! Uzma Tahir is a woman on a mission. The host of the program ‘Khufia’ on Abb Tak, takes in a deep breath and valiantly nose-dives into Karachi’s sordid core where men dress like women. It’s an exhaustive, but fruitful, day’s work of ramming her microphone into people’s faces and inquiring, “Ap Naila ke saath kab se hein? Tumhein pata hai ke who kaun hai? Khuwaja sera? Mujhe toh pata hai yeh khuwaja sera hai” (How long have ...

Read Full Post

Kasab coverage in the Indian media

Unlike the Pakistani media that reported the hanging of Ajmal Kasab sparingly, the Indian media featured the story very prominently all day yesterday. I can vouch for the fact that for Indian television and online journalists it was a busy field day. Literally, all angles of the story were covered – the actual hanging, the mercy petition, 26/11 survivors, 26/11 martyrs and Kasab’s last wish. One of the reasons that got many elders in Uttar Pradesh and Delhi to watch television news was the invincible dumbing down spirit that India TV, a 24 hour Hindi news channel, exhibits time and again. ...

Read Full Post

Pakistani media: Making a terrorist out of an innocent man

On November 18, in the name of soi-disant sectarian fights an Imambargah in Karachi was attacked. The incident undoubtedly deserved media attention and so it received this with live coverage by various news channels. What struck me, however, was the way one of these channels treated the incident. While most news channels reported that the motorbike on which the bomb was planted had an illegal number plate, one of these channels decided to be over-efficient with some “exclusive” bits of information – the name and location of the man who owned that number’s legal plate. Despite repeated mentions that his motorbike was ...

Read Full Post

Media ethics and rape: Have a heart!

Every other day our crime reporter says, “Aray, yahan rape hua hai.” (Hey, there’s been a rape at this place.) or, “Ek aurat ka Saddar mein murder hua hai, story chahiye?” (A woman’s been murdered in Saddar. Want a story on that?) We don’t even stop and think twice before asking, “Nahi, is mein naya kya hai? Mazay ka murder tha?Koi weird detail pata chali?” (No, what’s new in that? Was there something cool about the murder? Did you find out any weird details?) The more gruesome details he can get his hands on, the better. I know it sounds horrible but it spices up the story. For example, there was a case a couple of months ago ...

Read Full Post

The life of a business reporter

“Journalism is writing,” columnist Aakar Patel once told me, saying I should write more to justifiably be called a journalist. I was then a sub-editor on the Op-Ed desk of The News. After spending four years on that job, I knew I had become lazy, self-satisfied and highly opinionated – characteristics of a typical sub-editor. So I decided to become a business reporter after coming back from a one-year break that I took to do a Master’s degree in Journalism. If you think a business reporter’s job is a piece of cake, try having a direct conversation with a businessman. Ask him about his ...

Read Full Post

What is the worst thing about Pakistan’s media?

The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) deserves a pat on the back for its bold move towards greater transparency in their online complaints section – they’ve given the public access to the complaint log. To be frank, a pat on the back for Pemra and a cold shiver down one’s spine is unfortunately the order of the day. Let us delve into this treasure trove of the Pakistani complainant’s mindset. First of all, the top 10 list of offenders: No Name Complaints 1 Samaa TV 450 2 Geo News 147 3 Geo Ent 95 4 Express News 32 5 AAG / Geo Aur 26 6 ARY Digital 21 7 HUM TV 13 8 Dawn News 11 9 Dunya TV News 11 10 AAJ News 8 That is a total of over 800 complaints; again, an ...

Read Full Post

Mukarram Khan, Saleem Shahzad…who’s next?

In 2001, just after the US invasion in Afghanistan, a tribal journalist from Mohmand Agency was captured near Kandahar along with another Pakistani and a French journalist. All three were taken into captivity by the Afghan Taliban on suspicion of being American spies. As their case went before the Taliban court, the tribal journalist found himself with an unexpected advantage; he was the only one who could understand both English, Urdu and Pushto. Thus, he entered into the unlikeliest contract of all; working as a paid translator for the Taliban while in captivity. At the end of the three months ...

Read Full Post

Is The Express Tribune a government mouthpiece?

Do you know what a PC-1 is? Or a summary? Or the facilitation of the upgradation of the basic health unit? This is how our newspapers sound because this is the language bureaucrats and politicians use. And because our reporters are by and large getting their news stories from these people, they end up using the same dusty language. As a result, what the reader gets is ’employment opportunities’ instead of jobs, ‘concerned authorities’ and ‘authorities concerned’. As a desk editor I have shouted and screamed, begged and pleaded with the sub-editors and reporters to write for the reader, in ...

Read Full Post