Land of rumour and hyperbole

Published: January 13, 2012
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The writer is an Islamabad-based freelance communications consultant. She tweets at @tazeen and blogs at http://tazeen-tazeen.blogspot.com/

The writer is an Islamabad-based freelance communications consultant. She tweets at @tazeen and blogs at http://tazeen-tazeen.blogspot.com/

They say there is no business like show business. The case of Pakistan, however, is a tad different and here there is no business like news business. Take any newspaper for instance; the front page would be full of statements, rhetoric, hearsay and guess work. There is hardly any good old-fashioned, solid news.

Every newspaper — national or vernacular — is wondering the state of Mansoor Ijaz’s visa application for his appearance before the judicial commission in Islamabad. Whether he has applied for the visa or not, and in case he applies for it, will he apply for a visa in Washington DC or London? Mansoor Ijaz, who vows to appear before the judicial commission yet again, even though he has made no concrete move to actualise his commitment, gets a headline. A news item like this, which is nothing but speculation and rhetoric, is usually given a prominent spot in most newspapers.

The news about the course of action advised by the coalition partners to the PPP government is one of the most prominently displayed ones, yet it is full of platitudes. The news about the army’s silence and how it is worrisome for the movers and shakers in Islamabad, is nothing but speculation. Similarly, the news about Altaf Husain talking to the Taliban and Imran Khan talking to all but the PML-N is mere political posturing.

The electronic media is worse and the events of the past couple of days are a good example of the fact that large segments of it seem to thrive only on sensationalism. Many anchors were willing to suffer coronaries and brain aneurysms to make their point. Some were so eager to ensure that they appear most earnest; they risked combustion by passionate rhetoric, if that’s possible. Dr Goebbels used propaganda as a war tool in Nazi Germany and he was quite successful in it. We, it appears, live in the age of rumours where it is used as a tool of political manoeuvring.

Similarly, the media’s news gathering is limited to a few big cities. A bomb blast in Lahore or rioting in Karachi gets maximum coverage and stays in the news for far longer than a blast in Charsadda and brutal massacre of government officials in Turbat. The lack of voices from Balochistan in the electronic media is unfair, if not criminal.

Those who sing praises of a free media should pause and ponder if the media is really doing what it is supposed to do? Does it give all the players equal opportunities to present their case? Does it posit the same pointing questions to all the players — political and apolitical — or does it do the bidding of a select group? Only this week, we have seen one TV anchor or the other championing coup, but were there any dissenting voices? If the honour of the armed forces cannot be questioned then why are we subjecting our elected representative to the repeated shame and humiliation? If the institution of judiciary is above any scrutiny — as presented by the media — then why not parliament?

Amidst all the rumours, rhetoric, conjecture, gossip, posturing and speculation, the real news gets lost somewhere. There are so many news worthy items that never get airtime because the media is busy peddling inanities.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 14th, 2012.

 

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Reader Comments (19)

  • antanu
    Jan 13, 2012 - 11:08PM

    MADAM… HAVE YOU GONE THROUGH INDIA MEDIA (ELECTRONIC MEDIA INCLUDED)…U WILL FORGET ABOUT THE PAKISTANI MEDIA. JUST TODAY THERE WAS A HEADLINE IN HINDI NEWSPAPER (COMPAC)…..”ZARDAR FARAR HUYE”….well this is the problem both sides of the border have…media has played the spoiler of peace instead of making bridges of friendship.

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  • pffttt
    Jan 14, 2012 - 12:00AM

    Reads more like a blog than an op-ed. Everyone knows the media is biased, it has its own interests and opinions that it is all too ready to protect and project. This is not a problem that afflicts only Pakistani media organisations, but one would expect to see better standard of writing and analysis in a newspaper such as this. This article offers nothing new; and is boring to boot. How is that the op-ed pages of this paper still haven’t been able to maintain some level of uniformity in the standards it applies for selecting opinion pieces? You have a brilliant article by Kamran Asdar Ali sitting on the same page as this piece.

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  • RR Iyer
    Jan 14, 2012 - 12:49AM

    I was pleasantly surprised by reading two of Ms. Tazeen Javed’s op-ed articles in the past few months. As opposed to “pffttt” above-who certainly lives up to his name- I find her articles thought provoking. She provides informed commentary on the state of the media in Pakistan- and does it with wit and humor, traits hard to find among the proud and prejudiced “Ghairatmand” readers and anchors in Pakistan. She is well informed and calls a spade a spade; her diction is great, and she puts her points across convincingly. No wonder that less informed-and biased readers-find her investigative articles to be uncomfortable, as they cut across conventional wisdom that is “oh so comforting despite the facts”! Thrashing around and finding an obscure Indian publication to vent their claim to fairness is a laugh-all you need to do is to survey the Urdu press, as well as the Establishment-supported media who everybody knows.
    All the best to you, Tazeen, in your pursuit of truth and brilliance! Take care!

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  • Javed
    Jan 14, 2012 - 1:04AM

    Very well written, but it won’t have any effect on us deluded Pakistanis

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  • Salim Ali
    Jan 14, 2012 - 1:13AM

    @antanu:
    What’s your point? Is the Indian media or in your case a Hindi newspaper a benchmark by which Pakistani media should be measured? We need to stop comparing ourselves to India on every metric.

    The author is raising a justifiable concern about Pakistani media which should bother all of us thinking Pakistanis. If you don’t have anything salient or insightful to add on the subject, spare us the comments with the “yours is blacker than mine” mentality that distract from the subject.

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  • rafiq
    Jan 14, 2012 - 1:16AM

    Correct,very judiciously analysed.Our media is just running for rating.They don’t understand or do not want to understand the repercussions.Sometimes it is felt that some sheikhchillies are gossiping without any purpose and aim.The whole nation seems to be hijacked. Sorry.

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  • Shoaib
    Jan 14, 2012 - 2:25AM

    Comendable Article.
    One of the major factor in this regard is the business oriented mind set. When you run after the TRPs rather than facts, then this happens. Also lack of any code and conduct worses the situation. Why shouldn’t be media answerable?
    Instead of arguing that media itself will mature up, we should try to make it happen. Nothing happens on its own.

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  • You Said It
    Jan 14, 2012 - 7:13AM

    Exemplary insight, Ms. Javed. Great job.

    @antanu:
    Are you making any sense? The author, like you and me, is a Pakistani. Why should she (and we) forget about Pakistani media? Why are more bothered about what’s happening in another country while our own home is falling apart. You need to pull your head out of the hole its buried in. We need to forget about what’s happening elsewhere and put our own media, our civil society, our government, our economy, our army and intelligence agencies and our infrastructure in order. None of these do the job they’re supposed to be doing, and all we get are inexplicable excuses for their incompetence.

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  • Hamza Arshad
    Jan 14, 2012 - 8:02AM

    Honestly speaking, her syntax is better than those of many of our elevated columnists. As a teacher of English language and literature, I can discern the balance of her narrative. Well done Tazeen! Let the things get going.

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  • Jack
    Jan 14, 2012 - 8:51AM

    @Salim Ali:
    I agree with you and the writer. Globally, media is in search of eyeballs and often crosses the limits of professionalism (ref NOTW for example); media in South Asia is no exception, and the saving grace is probably a few responsible journalists on either side. And while consumers of English media (who are in clear minority) may be less swayed by such sensationalism (but often still are!), readers/ viewers of Urdu/ Hindi/ Vernacular media are often influenced by the irresponsible content, and this is a serious concern.
    As regards antanu, in case you have not run into him before, he is a Pak troll who keeps trying to prove his Indianness (ref Hindi newspaper in this case) in his posts :) – unfortunately his ‘Hindi’ just gave him away. Pls ignore him.

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  • Abdul jalil khan
    Jan 14, 2012 - 9:37AM

    Madam! I salute your bravery and straightfarwardness in pointing out the biased role of both print and electronic media.infact the killings of our security jawans and even other important issues are put on backburner.

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  • Jan 14, 2012 - 9:55AM

    @ The author:
    “Take any newspaper for instance; the front page would be full of statements, rhetoric, hearsay and guess work. “
    Bang and bang on the point….

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  • Jan 14, 2012 - 9:58AM

    @ The author:
    “The lack of voices from Balochistan in the electronic media is unfair, if not criminal.”
    For an Indian, it is really a good news to see such articles like your’s actually making it to the print..

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  • Jan 14, 2012 - 10:01AM

    “If the institution of judiciary is above any scrutiny — as presented by the media — then why not parliament?”
    This is exactly why we are having a big fuss about the ‘Jan Lokpal bill’ in India. Hold every player accountable. Really encouraging article…

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  • antanu g
    Jan 14, 2012 - 11:31AM

    @Salim Ali:
    You got me wrong bro. One evil cant justify another. I was just pointing towards general traita of media in sub continent…and it is not limited to vernaculor language media….so called FULLY AWARE..english media is also equally guilty. Point is that instead of getting into inferiority complex….pakistanis should understand that the problem exist every where and need remedil efforts.

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  • Jan 14, 2012 - 11:57AM

    @antanu g:
    What you quote ‘Zardar farar huye’ unfortunately appears to be true. The words used might be too crude. but then masses in the subcontinent are known for their crude sense. May be of cultural origin….

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  • MarkH
    Jan 14, 2012 - 1:49PM

    It appears that many of the people want the attention for the story. Not wanting the story itself to get the attention. They also feed off of people agreeing with them and their way of thinking, rather than what others think after the story is given.
    It’s probably one reason the US accidentally killing the soldiers got a whole lot more attention than the executions by the Taliban. They get to preach to crowds when it’s about the US. If they expose the Taliban executions as widely and with as much passion, it’s the actual victims who would end up with the attention. Not the guy running his mouth.

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  • Khurram Khalid
    Jan 14, 2012 - 6:37PM

    Rating, rating and rating this is what our TV anchors are concerned about. There are different rating agencies-general public and intelligence. Our anchors are concerned about both. In all times government bashing sells but more so now because not only the public but also our establishment-military and civilian- wants the government out. Any news item which might lead to the ouster of the government makes headlines.

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  • Samad
    Jan 14, 2012 - 9:38PM

    Rumours, rumours, rumours, btw, Mansoor Ijaz is here

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