Veteran journalist and talk show host Talat Hussain said on Friday that he has refused an offer to become federal information minister in the caretaker cabinet.
Hussain says he received a phone call around 4:30pm on Friday from a person associated with the caretaker setup. “I was doing my cricket net practice at the time, and was about to step in to bat when the call came,” says Hussain.
The person on the other end of the line told him that he was being considered for the post and that he had called to obtain his ‘prior consent’ and would appreciate an immediate response. To this, Hussain responded that he wasn’t interested in the post and declined the offer. A second call was made to ask him to reconsider but he refused again.
“Our job as journalists is to criticise, critique and analyse, and if you become a minister, and especially information minister, then your job is to defend, protect and even hide damaging facts. Clearly, there is a conflict of interest,’ he said.
Hussain also went on to express his reservations about the composition of the caretaker setup, saying: “I’m not sure if I want to be associated with it.”
His decision was praised by at least two of his colleagues, with Ansar Abbasi saying it had added to the stature of professional journalists. “Government offices and positions are not meant for journalists. If they start running after attractive jobs and positions, then who will practise journalism?” said Abbasi.
“It is our misfortune that certain people, who use journalism to cater to their political goals, have gained popularity,” he said.
Another senior columnist, Humayun Gauhar, said that irrespective of his reasons, Talat Hussain deserved credit for his decision.
“Once a journalist enters the realm of government or takes up offices, he loses his credibility. Be it Mushahid Hussain Sayed or any other journalist, they don’t enjoy the same credibility as they once did,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 30th, 2013.