Media Watch: Time to Chill Out

Posted on September 30, 2010
Filed Under >Faris Islam, Media Matters, Politics, Society
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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 responses to “Media Watch: Time to Chill Out”

  1. HIRALIOUS says:

    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

  2. Meengla says:

    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.

  3. Imtiaz Qasim says:

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

  4. NAEEM says:

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

  5. Ben says:

    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: rers-can-not-be-philanthropists%E2%80%A6/

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