Our Media Must Grow Up!
There are two things that can describe a nation – its leaders and its media. Sadly, in Pakistan, we have corrupt leaders whereas the media acts highly irresponsibly in the name of sensationalism. Take the case of recent bomb explosions in Karachi which happened in the Safoora Goth area on a road that houses the Karachi University as well as the posh Malir Cantonment Housing Society. The bomb explosions happened in the morning of 9th and 10th December, but the local TV channels continued to air the news till the evening, creating panic for those who had just tuned in to their TV sets. It was a good thing that both the blasts were detonated by remote control, because had the perpetrators wanted to monitor the proceedings, all they had to do was check the local TV for live coverage of the event.
This is not the first instance of local media going hyper. The anchors are paid to make the people believe the stories but when a ‘breaking news’ takes place, it’s even hard for the anchors to believe themselves, if they would only listen to themselves. The producers are to blame who air uncensored footage featuring the body of a suicide bomber for the sake of ratings, or ask a stupid questions while the person on phone is giving the answer of an earlier question. In once recent interview, Imran Khan, Chairman of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf, during one such interview, made it clear to the news anchor that if she wanted to stop him from answering, then he would be better off without answering at all!
During the days of the Pakistan Television, which was till the end of the 90s, Pakistan was a peaceful country where the wrongdoings never made it to the news. No one took the news at 9 seriously because it was state-owned. With the advent of private TV channels during the early part of this century, people have started believing news not because it has a different flavor but because it seemed realistic. With the passage of time, the channels started losing their credibility and the bigger the channel became, the less interested it became in the authenticity of the news. The seriousness of the issue can be judged from the fact that the death of Sarfaraz Shah at the hands of Rangers officials was filmed by a private entertainment channel, the crew of which was shooting a play in the Benazir Park, and no channel bothered to air the news until and unless it was offered to them for free!
I have been a part of the media circus myself, but as a viewer feel ashamed of the kind of work that gets aired on TV. Rape, murder and bomb blasts are matters of life and death, and they shouldn’t be played in a RED BOX as BREAKING NEWS because they are life-changers for some, if entertainment for others. No one knows the nature of the blast that took place at Lines Area on 9th Moharram this year. The channel which has its head office situated in the vicinity (at Shahrah-e-Faisal) claimed it was a suicide bomb, the rest said it was a cylinder blast. Whatever it was, it created panic amongst the relatives of those who were away from home, passing through or having passed the area.
It is about time that the media of Pakistan grew up and acted responsibly. The heads of all the renowned TV channels in the country should meet to discuss the ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’ of the industry, and make sure that the channels implement these terms. It is the only way to take the channels seriously because if they don’t act responsibly, their fate would be similar to the boy who called wolf!