Pakistan’s ‘Arab Spring’ and the media

Published: May 26, 2012
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The writer is director current affairs Express News and has previously worked with ARY News. He is a former secretary-general of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists

The writer is director current affairs Express News and has previously worked with ARY News. He is a former secretary-general of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists

Social media brought a revolution in the Arab world and many of us here thought it may bring the same results in Pakistan without realising that the ‘Arab spring’ was not merely the result of media hype but had commitment, conviction and sincere leaders behind it. Some political pundits even felt that the media would be able to force the government to quit. This is not the media’s job and nor can we, or should we, be doing it.

The independence of the judiciary and the freedom of the media are two revolutions that have already taken place in Pakistan in the last decade. Now it is up to the politicians to do the rest. The media can play the role of a ‘mirror’ but it should also be able to see itself in the same mirror.

As the role of the judiciary in the last four years has come under criticism from certain sections, the media too has faced criticism for being biased and polarised. But can it make any difference in the next general elections? From Imran’s tsunami to Nawaz’s laptop and Zardari’s tricks, all will be tested and the media will play the role of a ‘watchdog’ (which it should), while the judiciary is supposed to play the role of a neutral umpire.

One of the reasons why Egyptians from the right, left and the centre were able to gather on one platform was due to the dictatorship of one man — a rule which had seen years of suppression, thousands of people imprisoned, censorship, etc. Here the government may be corrupt and the country poorly governed but the media is free, the judiciary is independent, there are no political prisoners and the government is an elected one.

In the last four and a half years, the biggest gathering that was witnessed was during the lawyers’ march. In Pakistan’s political history, all long marches enjoyed the support of the establishment whether it was led by Benazir Bhutto, Nawaz Sharif or the religious parties. However, private TV channels were held responsible for the success of the lawyers’ movement.

It is quite true that the media is polarised and biased to an extent. Is it not true that some of our leading columnists are also acting as ‘advisers’ to one party or the other? Is it not true that in the past some columnists and anchors have been members of cabinets or have held official positions? Can they be called neutral or objective? Why do they hide their past positions?

How the print and the electronic media will cover the next general elections will be interesting to watch as the leading political parties plan to spend millions on moulding public opinion and minimising or neutralising criticism in what appears to be highly polarised media.

Maybe after two or three more uninterrupted elections, we may also see debates between party heads like the ones we see taking place in the US. Maybe after some time we may also witness TV channels openly declaring their support for specific parties during general elections. The same is the case for our columnists and anchors. We need to be fair with our readers and viewers.

Our media can’t change the course of history. It can only present it in an objective manner. If talk shows could have made any real difference, the panel headed by comedian Umer Sharif would have swept last year’s Arts Council elections after it forced TV channels not to give the viewpoint of its rival panel. It lost by 1,000 votes despite its members having given over a dozen interviews prior to the polls.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 27th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (5)

  • Mazen
    May 27, 2012 - 12:51AM

    It has been a mis-perception that media had brought Arabs to the street of Cairo and Tunis to bring the so-called revolution. Had media so vocal at the time of bolsehvick revolution or had the same was equally more competent in 1789- the year of French Revolution. We forgot to analyze the aftermaths and ramifications of such spontaneous but rather abrupt events. Has Arab-spring helped make the Arab countries more democratic? The answer is undeniable NO. What would happen if we- all Pakistanis- will come or compel to come to the every length and breadth of Pakistan? The answer id very straight-forward: If something like this happens then the direct beneficiary would be Military or politicians and indirectly the perks and privileges of our civil bureaucracy will hike further. Do we all want this kind of revolution? Or we want evolution. We are a nation of hyper-actives and cognitive dissonance is our the most special attitude. Every now and then we come across the word “‘REVOLUTION”. We don’t want rhetorical and farcical revolution; the effect of which in long-term will be more destructed than short-term. We need to adopt pragmatic attitude instead of just emotional one. We terribly need revolution, but not at the cost of further long-term chaos and anarchy instead we need pragmatic and circumspect revolution. The decision is ours what kind of Pakistan we want to left for our coming generation. Is it like the one that has been going on since its inception or we want to ripe the benefits of a well planned revolution.Recommend

  • Afghan Perspective
    May 27, 2012 - 1:32PM

    ” the media is free, the judiciary is independent, there are no political prisoners…” : I think the writer has a kind of unique definition for political prisoners, this why he claims that there are no political prisoners in Pakistan. Dear Author! What about all those abducted people- the issue now being dealt by the SC.

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  • May 27, 2012 - 3:45PM

    Mazhar
    We have been watching the Pakistani Media like the Geo,ARY and the National channel and I must say they are very disappointing indeed.
    You have to have a grassroots participation with debates locally in a proper environment in the open in the villages where the leaders of all political parties are present and discuss the problems openly.
    The whole world and the Pakistanis themselves know that Army rules Pakistan and with all kinds of manipulations yet no one really attacks the army openly and politically there is no media muscle here .
    All we see is a parody display of a few seasoned operators very eloquent about hiding facts and waste time on air by delving in to past.
    naturally with the likes of these it would be better if a campaign was started to limit control of politics by limiting the number of years on can stand as an MP and that has to be no more than 4 years.
    Look carry on your crusade without fear and believe me the answers will come from within.
    The real Pakistani Spring is coming soon.
    The world is watching it is only because we want to avoid a repeat of Syria that the spring is delayed in Pakistan.
    Pakistan does not deserve that and we in India will not allow that at any cost.

    Regards and God Bless

    Viren naik

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  • Muhammad Ishaq
    May 27, 2012 - 6:49PM

    Good analysis Mazhar. And I appreciate you for the way you people at ET are covering current affairs in Pakistan.

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  • Expatriate
    May 28, 2012 - 9:58PM

    Media’s job is to report without any bias the events as they take place and without adding NAMAK MIRCH.I would think Pakistani media industry will learn and mature in years to come.
    Many people rely on foreign news instead.
    It will be a big mistake to compare Arabs with Pakistanis.Their springs,when researched will surprise even those who actively participated.Pakistanis will have to become cohesive force and be respectful to their identity before talking of Spring.No revolution has ever succeeded with it’s people divided,nations moral fabric disintegrated and self centred.

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