By Mujahid Hussain, New Age Islam
21 May 2014
War within media is on rise in Pakistan. It seems that the continued conflicts among the national media outlets will come out with flying colours. Because the way they are strengthening themselves against each other is an isolated and unusual phenomenon. At a time when they were in their initial stages of progress, they got into inevitable trouble.
We could give it a pass if it was just a matter of a particular media organisation, but it is rather related to the collective vision of Pakistani media. Unfortunately, we have no holistic view of the matter as yet, because the foreign elements continue to exert full power and influence on our media. As for the argument that the Pakistani media outlets are engrossed in an intense business rivalry feeding this turbulent situation, I don’t think this is an isolated incident in Pakistan. A healthy competition among media to vie with each other in excellence and better performance can be found in any part of the world, but what I haven’t seen anywhere else is media’s fierce fighting to the extent of eliminating each other in Pakistan.
Regrettably, our perception of rivalry is that we can only conquer our rivals when we completely eliminate them from the world. This attitude is shown in all our disputes and controversies, be they social, political, religious or sectarian. We are always on the lookout for an exclusivist and totalitarian conquest.
Without delving deeper into the issue, one can easily see that the Pakistani media miserably failed to meet the expectations of the people. Most media outlets in Pakistan are still far away from basic news values like freedom of projection, impartiality, fairness and objectivity. They are steeped in greed and bias so deeply that that they are reluctant to move forward. Given the present state of affairs, we have to foresee what is going to happen next.
Shockingly enough, political parties, self-centred activists, state agencies, and every influential entity in Pakistan have an acute grip on the national media outlets, which are now playing into their hands instead of functioning independently. Recently, there have been numerous instances and substantial evidences showing the pathetic plight of Pakistani media. Many media persons have reportedly said that in order to get a job in Pakistani media, they had to prove their ability to bring political and financial gains, in addition to carry out their journalistic work at the same time. They also had to show their personal links and acquaintances which can benefit the media houses.
I vividly remember the day when I was interviewed by the owner of a leading newspaper. I told the owner whatever experience I had and whatever I could do in future, but he put up his question very briefly and frankly: “what favour can you do to our media outlet?” When I sought explanation of this question, he simply said: “Do you have any links with an organisation, group, or a faction that can help us in need?” I was just a field reporter and I knew nothing except reporting the incidents from the places where they happened. I had no time to build relations and ties that could suit vested interests of media owners. Therefore, I made it clear to him that I had no such “links”. Quite interestingly, he then spoke to me in a fragile and yet polite voice: “We don’t have any vacancy now, but we will surely let you know in case we need you”.
It clearly suggests that what we loudly claim to have achieved is nothing but pseudo-freedom and so-called independence that is worse than slavery. Problems grow exponentially when common people in the poor states and war-torn societies begin to expect from a single organisation, group or faction to improve the deteriorating situation. This is what happened to the Pakistani media. Works that should be done by other agencies of the state are expected from the media in Pakistan. More interestingly, untrained owners of Pakistani media outlets, who have no acumen to deal with the situations, are trying to show their extra ability to resolve all the major issues of the country. Although Pakistani media gives coverage to all walks of life and points to all agencies and organisations, it is not ready to place any professional or moral responsibilities on itself.
Journalism, throughout the world, is known for its quest for news, asking questions and being told, but Pakistani journalism is distinguished with its aptitude for issuing statements and even fatwas, if needed. An expert news analyst in our media would never accept that there could be an error in his report or that his views may have some flaws. People in our country are often afraid of journalists and news analysts, because they not only read or watch them but also feel the “power” and immense influence they possess. Perhaps, this is the reason why people have high expectations from the powerful intellectuals and journalists.
There is no denying that the above phenomenon in Pakistan has transformed journalism from being a media of communication to a means to power. Thus, the profession of journalism in Pakistan is deteriorating, while journalists are progressing by leaps and bounds. On the other hand, the eminent columnists of the national newspapers have added fuel to the fire. They are still writing under the false assumption that people love them so much that they avidly read their pieces. They believe that the governments are afraid of their writings and that they can target anyone within moments. This is precisely why the majority of Pakistani columnists have given up reading extensively on any topic to write. Instead, they have started to write novelties, stories and travelogues in which they merely sing praises to their friends and relatives. This is how a column starts and ends in Pakistan.
The author of nine books including the recent "Punjabi Taliban", Mujahid Hussain writes a regular weekly column for New Age Islam. He is also Chief of New Age Islam Brussels Bureau. He has been contributing to leading papers as an investigative journalist for about two decades. His writings cover a vast panorama of topics concerning political and societal existence of Pakistan, a nation passing through difficult straits since a short time after its birth. With terrorism and security issues at local, regional, and global levels as his special area of study in recent years, Mujahid Hussain has earned a sizable readership in serious circles in Pakistan and abroad. Follower of an independent, non-partisan, and objective way of thinking, the author offers honest analysis of the challenges threatening communities, nations, and humanity at large.