South Asia Research and Analysis Studies

By Zia Siddiqui

Though Pakistanís electronic media is still young, but it is young for its age only, and not for its orientation about global, regional and domestic issues. Pakistanís media managers are fully aware of their responsibility, but according to their own agenda. Viewers often wonder about the contents and the intensity with which these media groups present these issues. One would recall Shoaib-Sania wedding which remained on screens for over a week, but the news of seven Swabi Lady Health Workersí cold blooded murder was screened as a routine incident. Veena Malik gets more coverage than the kidnappings and killings of the members of Law Enforcing Agencies (LEA).

Watching Pakistanís television channels one wonders as to what is the theme of these transmissions? Is it for information of the viewers? Or is it for the entertainment of the viewers? Or is it to mould viewersí opinion? Or is it to mobilize public for the attainment of certain objective? Or would this theme hurt Pakistanís national interest? Or would this news help promote Pakistanís national interest?
However, these questions remain unanswered and viewers are forced to watch whatever is presented to them. But, one would like to remind these media managers that they bear huge responsibility to protect Pakistanís interests and must remember that when events of 9/11 took place, the headlines of all American channels read, ďAmerica under AttackĒ and not World Trade Centre under attack. Likewise, the attacks in Britain, Spain and elsewhere are also viewed as attacks on the State and its core values. Whereas, nearly all of our cities and intitutions come under brutal attacks every now and then, but the headlines does not reflect the attack on the State but on that particular city or the department, indicating these acts as incidents and not attacks on our institutions and our values. Also, one would like to remind our media managers about the role of Indian media when it comes to defending national issues; transmissions during Kargil conflict, attack on Indian Parliament in 2001, and Mumbai attacks in 2008 are just a few examples. Whereas, Pakistani channels remained busy in sensationalising the news related to all such issues. One wonders as if he/she is watching an independent international channel or a national one.
In fact, Pakistanís private channels since, gaining the well deserved freedom of expression have totally disregarded the national purpose and the national interests of the State, and behave indifferently on issues of national importance. They seem to lack in the application of the principle of proportionality, or else it is being done deliberately. Or is it done for a specific purpose or for commercial reasons only? It is difficult to determine from the contents, but not impossible to conclude from the frequency with which such news are screened.
Latest in line are the incidents of indiscriminate and unwarranted firings by the Indian forces in areas of Haji Pir and Hotspring on the Line of Control (LoC) since 9 January 2013, and on January 10, 2013 at 1450 hrs, Indian troops shot and martyred a Pakistani soldier after repeated, unacceptable and unprovoked attacks on Pakistani posts. These incidents were of extreme national importance because these could jeopardize the years of ceasefire along the Line of Control, which is an important Confidence Building (CBM) that has worked well since 2003. What has been the response of our electronic media to these unfortunate incidents? A routine headline, with no condemnation of Indian excesses across the LoC. Pakistanís call to thoroughly investigate the repeated violations of the ceasefire along the Line of Control by Indian troops and also take necessary steps to ensure their non-recurrence also went unnoticed. Above all, Pakistanís offer to hold an independent inquiry into the recent incidents of ceasefire violations through the United Nations Military Observers Group for India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) also did not get support from our otherwise powerful electronic media. On the other hand Indian media has launched an immensely effective propaganda campaign to impress upon the domestic and international audience to project Pakistan as an aggressor. One is amazed at this indifferent attitude of our media gurus because on the one hand they are pressurizing the government to pursue with seriousness the dialogue with India and take significant steps to create a peaceful environment and on the other they are no criticizing India for such unwarranted acts. They also know that such unprovoked attacks may lead to the derailment of the ongoing peace process. Yet they remained in absolutely Ďnot my businessí like attitude, which is not understood by common men on the streets. At times, such behaviors by responsible people tend to cast doubt on their commitment to their work, and loyalty to the state they are citizens of.
While media has the right to pick and choose the issue they want to screen, but it is my earnest desire that our media gurus protect and project Pakistanís important national interests to improve the already tainted perceptions about us due multiple narratives that are at work against us anyway.