Media and the national interest
When talking about the role of Pakistan’s media in the aftermath of al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden’s killing in Abbottabad in a unilateral action, I recall English poet John Milton’s words:
“When complaints are freely heard, deeply considered, and speedily reformed, then is the utmost bound of civil liberty attained, that wise men look for.”
The role of our national media became very significant, not just after OBL’s death, but immediately after the 9/11 attacks, which changed public opinion not only in Pakistan, but also across the globe. In terms of the war on terror, the media has strengthened democratic institutions in Pakistan. It moulded public opinion against the means employed to reach the ends designed regarding the war on terror, which caused huge material and human losses. President Asif Zardari himself said that the country suffered losses of over $400 million in this war. It is, after all, the press’ scathing criticism of drone attacks which helped to mould public opinion and brought the nation and its leadership onto the same wavelength.
Public reaction to OBL’s death is understandable — “a mixture of emotions and rage.” It is the national press which is explaining the challenges ahead for a lay man to understand Pakistan’s relations with its allies in war on terror in the aftermath of unilateral attacks on its soil by US Navy Seals. TV channels and English newspapers are facing pressure on how to interpret Pakistan’s stance, while leaving no stone unturned in trying to disprove the notion that Pakistan is a haven for terrorists.
Pakistan was a pariah, suddenly walking hand in hand, when our national media began highlighting its sacrifices in this war. Whatever the obstacles or hurdles in our way, our media should focus on what is in the national interest. After the end of the Cold War, people thought there would be no threat to world peace. However, 9/11 proved them wrong. And now, so has May 2.