Media Watch: Time to Chill Out

Posted on September 30, 2010
Filed Under >Faris Islam, Media Matters, Politics, Society
19 Comments
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Faris Islam

Looking through the usual new sites on Pakistan over the weekend, I came across the ominous headline proclaiming “A day of thrilling developments likely,” which outlined that Sunday had been full of “feverish political activities which showed no sign of slowing down.” The article went on to talk about the “fireworks… predicted to start in the courtroom” with “part of the tense drama, however… played out at a meeting between Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and the army chief” and added further fuel to the fire of conspiracy theories that continue to singe our political institutions.

The article is not an isolated example however, and to me is indicative of a larger problem within our burgeoning mediascape. It is important that the article in question appeared not in an upstart tabloid but in Dawn – Pakistan’s most respected and sober newspaper which is respected for its restraint and high-quality reporting. Unfortunately even Dawn appears to also be succumbing to the wave of sensationalism like so many other media outlets in Pakistan, and indeed the world. But my concern is not about what is happening to one newspaper; rather it is what is happening to the media at large at a time when every news is “breaking news” and every story is presented in the most dramatic and sensational way possible, whether justified or not.

No matter how much we may all wish for political stability, as long as we continue to act irresponsibly – pedaling rumors, preaching on the imminent end of the government and finding conspiracies behind every one of Islamabad’s numerous checkpoints – we’re eroding the very political institutions we so sorely want in place. If we’re always bemoaning that our government is paranoid and defensive and insensitive to public outcries, perhaps the first step would be to stop putting them on the defensive and stop raising a public outcry over every little issue that goes wrong.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love a good gup shup session as much as the next guy and I’ll be amongst the first to stand up in favor of honest, critical media coverage, but there is a fine line separating hysteria and hyperbole from reasoned reporting – this is a line crossed all too often in our national conversations.

Indeed, the following day’s headline piece in Dawn read – “Back from the brink” – spoke of how “having braced itself for fireworks on Monday, the nation was greeted by a quiet and undramatic denouement by the afternoon”. As grateful as I was for this crisis averted, I couldn’t help but wonder – in the midst of the greatest humanitarian crisis the United Nations (and by extension the world community) have ever dealt with, some perspective would be nice.

Of course the stakes are high for democracy in Pakistan, but they’re even higher for the single mother living under a tree in Thatta – with her belongings and home washed away. Does she or the millions of others like her care who inhabits the plush halls of Aiwan-e-Sadr or the Prime Minister’s Residence?

Yes, we need a government that is attentive to the needs of the people. Yes, we need a watchdog media to keep them accountable, but most importantly we need to chill out. Or, as we often say here at ATP: “Dekho! is ko ‘Take It Easy’ lo!

Let us please give everyone a chance to do their job and be just a little less trigger-happy in assigning blame and declaring it the end of the world. If we vilify our government, jump down their throat and denounce them, it’s either delusional or disingenuous not to understand why donors are reluctant to cough up cash. If nothing else, don’t we owe our country and all those affected the unity of purpose that will be so sorely needed to overcome the crises we now face?

19 Comments on “Media Watch: Time to Chill Out”

  1. ASAD says:
    September 30th, 2010 12:20 am

    I do agree that the media is really overdoing the sensationalism and is creating a frenzy for frenzy’s sake. But, Dawn is still probably the best of the lot. Also, it is also now apparent there.

  2. September 30th, 2010 1:25 am

    Couldn’t agree more with you Faris. Indeed media has to act responsibly as they shape the opinion for the masses in the situation going on media is creating much of a haphazard situation.
    It is the freedom of speech that is much heard about but not the responsibility in speech.

  3. Qadir says:
    September 30th, 2010 9:39 am

    I really do not think was was sensational. The constitutional crisis in the country is real and really serious, so this type of coverage is justified.

  4. engr says:
    September 30th, 2010 1:40 pm

    I don’t agree.
    You want “andher nagri chopat raj”

  5. USMAN says:
    September 30th, 2010 2:14 pm

    For “engr”

    Maybe you should read the article you are commenting on.
    Chill out does not mean don’t speak up. It means stop making a fool of yourself by jumping up and down on every trivial happening. What is happening now is that the the press is behaving so obnoxiously that people are also losing faith in them.

  6. Yahya says:
    September 30th, 2010 2:30 pm

    Frankly, I trust the Pakistan media even less than the Pakistan politicians. And I do not trust the Pakistan politicians at all.

  7. ZAFAR says:
    September 30th, 2010 3:06 pm

    Nice piece, but difficult message.
    I understand that we have to support Pakistan. But this government keeps giving us less and less of an excuse to do so.

  8. Naan Haleem says:
    September 30th, 2010 6:17 pm

    Pakistani Media is doing just the same as their fellows elsewhere around the world. The only difference is the irresponsible, careless, corrupt and selfish practices of the politicians. The people living in Pakistan may or may not call it a media hype, depending upon their own political opinion, mindset and/or affiliation.

    We dont find any politics in Middle east so no question of criticism or flaming issues. But when we go to west, we see that even slightest of mistakes by politicians even in their very personal lives are highlighted to the extent of scandal, so much so that concerned person mostly prefers to quit from the scene rather than being torched everyday everywhere.

    You can find numerous examples in the west where politics was pushed by media. on political issues, take recent example of Australian PM’s re-election. On financial issues, govt. officials have been criticised over taking their spouse on tours with them excessively and hence demanded a refund of tax-payers’ money for such expenses. This has led to purification of politics and politicians in these countries.

    But it has been made possible only due to one thing: strong, independent, impartial and authoritative judicial system. Even if politician decides to counter the media war, he/she knows, court is unavoidable. So it is either truth or death.

    Pakistan is also going through this embryonic phase of media power. If our judicial system becomes independent of feudal aristocracy and police is allowed to concentrate on law and order (rather than VIP security and protocol duties), this media can eliminate the filth from politics within few years with the help of impartial public opinion making and evolution of sense of ‘Qoumi khazana = awam ka paisa = mera paisa’.

    Once the politics is cleared of filth and little scandals are, these media peopl will be on the defensive side. Because honest and true politicians (not dependent on unfair means or non political powers to remain in position) will not allow media groups to evade taxes (which they frequently do today) or to attempt yellow journalism.

    So i think let all the stakeholders decide the rules of the game once and for all and determine who is eligible to play and who is not.

    Bottom line: Judiciary and police independent of politics, abolition of feudal & mafia culture and public opinion making (rather than brainwashing) make up the road map of a successful future.

  9. Pak Lawyer says:
    September 30th, 2010 6:21 pm

    I am sorry but I think this is what the role of the media should be. It is the government that should perform better so that this type of stuff is not needed. The fault lies there, not in media.

  10. wsd says:
    September 30th, 2010 7:48 pm

    I am not sure if this news was on a back page what difference that will make. “Media Hype”, “sensationalism” are the terms used when a trivial issue is focused upon and discussed out of proportion. A govt. change is never a trivial issue anywhere and in Pakistan this is more of a life and death issue. Dawn , in my opinion, gave due importance and by no means we can “Chill out” in this situation.
    Lets reserve our media bashing for some other time.

  11. Ben says:
    September 30th, 2010 9:07 pm

    President has announced that his government plans to tax the rich to help the poor i.e. flood-hit people. This is a welcome announcement but will the rich and mighty pay up or will they live up to their reputation of plundering but not paying back. Pakistan’s floods have placed the country at the head of a bumpy road ahead when the country is forced to make tough choices. Read more at: http://fmeducation.wordpress.com/2010/09/30/plunderers-can-not-be-philanthropists%E2%80%A6/

  12. NAEEM says:
    October 1st, 2010 12:22 pm

    I think you are right. We sometimes cross the line between reporting and opinion and also between being critical and just being mean.

  13. Imtiaz Qasim says:
    October 1st, 2010 10:38 pm

    I agree with the author.
    The media and really the people are getting overboard in their criticism and sensationalism.

  14. Meengla says:
    October 2nd, 2010 3:05 pm

    The judiciary has a case filed by Asghar Khan from 1996 about Mehran Gate Scandal involving the Generals of Pakistan involved in bringing down the Benazir Govt. One of those Generals (Hamid Gul) has admitted his guilt and asks for ‘nation’s forgiveness.’ Even anti-PPP Cowasjee wants the judiciary to take up that case.
    The judiciary was pretty quick to absolve Nawaz Sharif of charges after 2007. Some very serious charges.

    But the same judiciary is on overdrive against one person: Asif Ali Zardari as if he is the only one benefited from kickbacks and corruption in the entire nation of 170+ millions.

    Something is not right about this judiciary. I can accuse it of at least partial ‘justice’. These supine judges allowed Musharraf to amend the constitution in 2000 and legitimized the coup of 1999. But they appear so chaste and untainted.

    Some of us are aware of the shenanigans of this judiciary and the right-wing media hellbent on bringing down another government dominated by the leaders from the minority province of Sindh.

    Not until they go all the way back to 1977 and start the accountability process from there AND include sinister judges like Maulvi Mushtaq (ZAB’s execution) and Quetta-suitcase-of-money judge like Rafiq Tarar I can be satisfied of their impartiality.

  15. HIRALIOUS says:
    October 2nd, 2010 5:43 pm

    well i don’t know where else to post it on ATP . and i think this issue is too important to lie ignored. so maybe you have come across the news about the problems of pre-med students.

    ok it is like this
    they always conducted mcat in september. but this did, just on one month’s notice, they took it on 20th of july. ( i know this is an old story) as a result…half the number of students (compared to last year) could clear it. let alone getting good marks but i know this is an old story

    but apparently they were not done with us yet.

    our aggregate was calculated according to: 70 percent of fsc marks and 30 percent of mcat marks were considered. to make an aggregate. this was the POLICY. you know. i hope they know what policy means. also when we got our mcat results in printed form , and when we got the prospectus of U.H.S they had CLEARLY mentioned our merit will be made according to this.

    now suddenlly out of nowhere they turned the tables. The policy changed. its a 50:40:10 ratio now. 50 of Mcat. 40 of fsc and 10 percent of matric. i would have found it funny some months ago. but nomore. not when it is happening.

    now all of you who have a mathematical mind can work it out that how a small difference in mcat score can beat a large difference in fsc score (and o-levels students suffer even worse because of the EQUIVALance issue) i suffer a drop of 2.2 percent.

    ‘its for all’ is just isnt a justification for this injustice done. coz its not alike for all of us. target setting is the most important thing in studying. you know your goal . and you work hard accordingly. but if they change the policies and we don’t meet the targets we were unprepared for. whose fault it is?

    i have seen so many of friends who were brilliant, and sure entries into MBBS even with 70:30 ration and even with mcat being taken so early, being made ‘borderline’ policies due to the sheer negligence of students rights (or there’s isnt a term like this anywhere) by UHS, PMDC and don’t punish me for contempt of court…..LHC too.

    i have just one single request. dont use law to punish us. i know we have to bring a change in this country. but what about being so much changed by the time when u have the power to do a thing, that you are not willing to? because you remember how YOU WERE TREATED..

    don’t punish the students for crisis. we didn’t do anything. we worked hard . we stayed awake at nights and studied. we had targets.

    again, don’t use law to punish us. don’t ignore it.
    you are going to lose. but it doesn’t matter. because this country loses. nobody else!ll

  16. HIRAlious says:
    October 2nd, 2010 5:48 pm

    sorry for the many mistakes in my post. i was too pumped up to come in a nice, smooth flow. and maybe. my eloquence fails me when anger gets the better of me.

    we are holding a protest in front of U.H.S on 7th. from 8.30 am onwards.

    i don’t know why i wrote this here. because i liked ATP? Because it raised voice for real issues?

    i don’t know. in a strange, unreasonable way. i think you can help us. just by covering it.

  17. October 7th, 2010 8:55 am

    lol.. very good information’s!

  18. imran says:
    October 8th, 2010 3:30 am

    good information

  19. Aman Pasand says:
    October 12th, 2010 1:36 am

    You have a point but I wish to mention that DAWN is not the kind of paper you thought it was.It is an extesion of press called ‘Tabloids’.It has an agenda where it foolishly considers itself as NOT a part of Pakistani Media.Its TV Channel is a failure because it does not identify with the people and it missuses the fact that it was founded by the Founder of Pakistan.

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