The media’s role in Taseer’s murder

Published: January 5, 2011
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The writer graduated from Harvard University in 2009 and is now working as a freelance development consultant
samad.khurram@tribune.com.pk

The writer graduated from Harvard University in 2009 and is now working as a freelance development consultant [email protected]

It is quite likely that the tragic murder of Salmaan Taseer, much like the other violence around the blasphemy law, was the act of a lone wolf with acquiescence from co-workers. The security guard who shot the governor was not funded by a terrorist organisation or a political group; rather his motivations stemmed from a misguided conviction, a culmination of anger and hate and a clouded moral compass. Unfortunately the killer is not alone. He has millions of sympathisers, thousands of whom have expressed support through fan pages, tribute videos and SMSs.

This murder is a hate crime and nothing else. Let’s not grace attention to frivolous arguments which we would like to hear. The injustices in society, poverty, corruption and the lack of concern for the ‘awam’ by politicians had little to do with this act. What must be realised is that the public-servant-turned-killer hated the victim so much that he emptied over two dozen bullets into the governor. The smug smile on his face and his statements suggest that he firmly believes what he had done was right.

How did we get into such a situation? This hate has a long-term ingredient and an immediate cause. Intolerance has bred into our society for decades. One could point to reports such as the A H Nayyar Report which revealed that our curriculum promotes intolerance, or to the incompetence of our institutions which are unable to punish vigilantes or which prosecutes those who incite others to violence.

However the instant trigger must be kept in mind as well, which in this case is the information and views that the guard received. He was made to believe that Taseer was a blasphemer and that it was his duty to kill him. In reality Taseer did not say anything about the Holy Prophet (pbuh). The duty to award and execute punishments rests solely with the state. This is the reason Islam asks for four witnesses, for a competent qazi and the right of the defendant to argue his case.

The perception of the above false reality was the outcome of large sections of the media which acted irresponsibly. Many stories which do not merit to be consider news are played on the screens because they can be sensationalised. Over the past three odd years prime-time slots have been hijacked by political talk shows, hosts of which are constantly trying to make the politicians fight with each other and make fools of themselves. Through these Jerry Springer shows and Fox News-style reporting, the media has successfully created the perception that politicians are malicious, immoral and irreligious.

In their earnest to make a fool out Taseer, a particular talk show host on Samaa TV constantly traded accusations with him that put him on the defensive and gave the impression that he (Taseer) was somehow not being honest about his views on the blasphemy law. Add to this his press briefing with Aasia Bibi in jail and the common perception that he, a politician would never speak the truth, was reinforced. Soon, the average Pakistani must have begun thinking that Taseer was being defensive because he supported those who committed blasphemy. Sections of the media went a step further. They actively gave airtime to people who accused him of committing and this only confirmed the suspicion their irresponsibility had planted in the first place.

The madness doesn’t stop here. Disproportionate coverage was given to clerics who declared it an obligation on Muslims to kill blasphemers and offered cash rewards. Instead of being impartial, and arguably for the sake of improving ratings in cut-throat competition, many journalists very visibly sided with these extremists. Eventually someone who had access to Taseer pulled the trigger.

Sadly, this won’t end here. The media will continue to irresponsibly televise violence and continue to project the narrative that politicians are the reason why the country is a mess. If drastic measures aren’t taken by responsible citizens and the government to rectify this trend and a clear sense of right and wrong isn’t established things will get worse.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 6th, 2011.

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Reader Comments (43)

  • Jan 6, 2011 - 12:13AM

    There is an obvious responsibility on the media for impartial coverage. And clearly this is an example of what happens when hacks, looking for just another story, forget facts and push their own agendas. But what about the responsibility on the average human? The responsibility to use the faculties afforded to them by the grace of ‘God’? Their minds, their rationale, their common sense. What is it about Pakistan that makes the majority of its citizens unable to exercise their own good judgement?Recommend

  • Jan 6, 2011 - 1:07AM

    I like, I like !
    Media Media Media :)

    @ Writer and Everyone else reading this article.
    If you get time and you prefer watching good movies, you should watch Wag the Dog, Trust me that day onwards everything you will start seeing things with a different perspective :)

    Adios !Recommend

  • Muhammed ali
    Jan 6, 2011 - 1:43AM

    These mullahs should be killed because they are the actual blasphemers!!!!!Recommend

  • Virtuosity
    Jan 6, 2011 - 1:44AM

    I totally agree with the author here.Recommend

  • Ahmed
    Jan 6, 2011 - 2:23AM

    what ever Taseer had said, we found more then in books of Mullahs and Mufti’s.Recommend

  • Kiran Nazish
    Jan 6, 2011 - 2:24AM

    @Muhammad Ali: By suggesting that the Mullahs should be killed or anyone else for that matter, should be killed; is an absolute immoderate thought. We need to understand that the lesson we need to learn, is not identifying who is wrong and who is misguided. What we need to learn is that we are weak and frail, only because we are not together. Every man for oneself? It won’t work and it hasn’t worked. We need to stop despising others, pointing fingures and get a grip! Recommend

  • Jan 6, 2011 - 2:26AM

    Who will take care of the “deep state”. Most of the mullahs and journalists-both on stupid box and in Urdu print media have connections with the “powerful” circles of the “deep state”. Its a deep rooted problem my friend.Recommend

  • Jumma Gul Khan
    Jan 6, 2011 - 2:39AM

    True samad, true! Meher Bukhari is dispicable!Recommend

  • Jan 6, 2011 - 3:59AM

    Well written… agreed!Recommend

  • gotahm3
    Jan 6, 2011 - 4:12AM

    i agree with your whole article except for the point “the media has successfully created the perception that politicians are malicious, immoral and irreligious.” the media surely keeps crossing the line on both sides of the border with the new found power of reaching the masses…however it is mainly the politicians who have brought this rot and degeneration upon us

    salman taseer was an unlikely politician, a successful businessman and economist and overall a liberal…now the last qualification was enough for the lunatic fringe fed on years of military fed religious intolerance to kill him thats why i dont personally blame qadri…it could be qadri or any other tom dick or harry..it was just a matter of time any moron did this given an opportunity

    peace and may ST R.I.P.Recommend

  • Mubarak
    Jan 6, 2011 - 4:17AM

    “These mullahs should be killed because they are the actual blasphemers!!!!!”
    My dear Muhammed Ali mullahs should not be killed; rather they should be put to some good use. Government should set up big industrial area on some remote Island, round all mullahs of Pakistan and transport them to this facility. Every mullah should be put to work for eight hours along with regular breaks as done in industrial countries. After mid-night mullahs should be required to getup and offer Tahajid prayers. This act will make mullahs useful for the society and make them spiritual as well. I bet you in Pakistan mullahs have too much Halwa and free time on their hands, and this combination is very bad as the saying goes that an idle mind is Satan’s workshop. Hopefully this recipe will help Mullah as well as Pakistan.Recommend

  • Jan 6, 2011 - 4:29AM

    Truth!Recommend

  • Yousuf Nazar
    Jan 6, 2011 - 4:55AM

    It is absolutely wrong for this young writer to declare,

    ” The security guard who shot the governor was not funded by a terrorist organisation or a political group; rather his motivations stemmed from a misguided conviction, a culmination of anger and hate and a clouded moral compass. ”

    Not so fast. We have to wait till more facts come out and investigations are carried out.

    And the editorial should take care to edit material in such sensitive cases. They should be extra careful specially after Salmaan Taseer’s murderRecommend

  • Jan 6, 2011 - 4:56AM

    There is an obvious responsibility of the media for such coverage, and i think in this case the media was the main reason responsible for this murder, it sensitized the whole scenario.
    Secondly this murder shows the increasing extremism in Pakistan, mullahs are not showing true Islam, in fact real moderate Islamic scholars are leaving the country, like Prof. Ghamdi who was a moderate Islamic scholar had to leave the country due to constant threats from extreme mullahs. This is the condition of Pakistan.Recommend

  • Hina Ansari
    Jan 6, 2011 - 5:01AM

    Exactly my sentiments. If lunatics are given cameras they will spread lunacy. Recommend

  • Aemad
    Jan 6, 2011 - 7:04AM

    While I agree with the author on most accounts (regarding the need for a responsible media), I disagree that its a misconception blaming the politicians for the mess we are in.

    No other country in the world has so many pending cases against the president, neither do the leaders enjoy lavish lifestyle while the masses suffer from poverty, illiteracy, inflation and natural disasters … Infact why do we even cry about the “jaahil awaam” when we give less than 5% to the education budget? Its only a matter of time when the “jihalat” will spill over. So it will not be an understatement that this country has already gone to the dogs!Recommend

  • Jan 6, 2011 - 7:26AM

    This is the point where Government should have intervened and filed cases against the so called Political-Molvis but no our Government is such a massive failure that they are just content on adding just another “Shaheed” on their list!

    And by the way to everyone, do you know why things are not getting fixed in Pakistan? That is because my and your liberal commentary is only found in English – language which over 80% of Pakistanis are not well versed in at all!Recommend

  • Jan 6, 2011 - 9:46AM

    I disagree with the author straight away. Blasphemy is quite quite a sensitive issue and an individual should think a million times before coming up with ANY statement. Keep looking this picture at an isolated angle would end up in INJUSTICE. Taseer initially used strong words against the law and at various forums, behaves as he took this law at the tip of his boot. See his last post at tweeter where he address all individuals who is against him says that i take all these as crap. Threshold level has to be arrive. And mind you, DO NOT isolate the whole picture to ensure injustice.Recommend

  • Riaz
    Jan 6, 2011 - 10:19AM

    USA hasn’t been able to do anything about Fox News and you can hardly control media these days. The problem lies deeper.Recommend

  • Riaz
    Jan 6, 2011 - 10:23AM

    It seems as if you are conducting the investigation of this case. What makes you make the following conclusion:

    ‘The security guard who shot the governor was not funded by a terrorist organisation or a political group; rather his motivations stemmed from a misguided conviction, a culmination of anger and hate and a clouded moral compass.’

    Such claims are also a testament to misreporting of facts.Recommend

  • maria khan
    Jan 6, 2011 - 10:43AM

    right on! excellent article, you stole the words out of my mouth. we are not the judge to decide what the punishment is if someone insults our prophet, the final decision rests with allah. our prophet P.B.U.H had garbage thrown at him and last time i checked, no one killed the woman who threw the garbage at him. proper spreading of islam and its respect comes from education and teachings not by fear mongering and senseless killings. Recommend

  • burhan
    Jan 6, 2011 - 10:44AM

    Dear Mr. Muhammad Ali, do you not do the exact same thing as the Mullahs, inciting hatred and violence. What purpose does that serve, remember, an eye for an eye, makes the whole world blind.
    I agree with the author, but I really doubt if its the media that can be fixed in such a situation. It is the side of the individual who believes it is his responsibility and privilege to commit such a horrendous act that has to be sorted out. Our country man now be going towards vigilante justice, and the progressive argument in under threat.
    We need to fix the schools and teachers of our country. They need to preach tolerance and acceptance. We may all be muslims, yet we live in a society where many different cultures coexist. We cant we take that co existence one step further and accept the other for what he really is. Human, just like the rest of us!Recommend

  • SA
    Jan 6, 2011 - 10:57AM

    A very sensible article. However the media is jsut as obstinate as our public!Recommend

  • Bilhuda
    Jan 6, 2011 - 11:12AM

    You made perfect sense, leading up to ‘Eventually someone who had access to Taseer pulled the trigger.’ Congratulations, keep writing, Samad!

    I won’t differ very strongly, except in a matter of emphasis. You only mentioned the mullahs in passing. Blaming the media and not those who called the rallies/issued fatwas is bit like blaming not the thief but his grandmother. I hope you see what I mean. But then again, I guess Qadri wouldn’t have heard of the fatwas if they hadn’t been celebrated on TV and in Nawaiwaqt.Recommend

  • Ali
    Jan 6, 2011 - 11:23AM

    If jinnah lived most of his life in pakistan with common pakistanis he wouldnt have dared to fight for it..coz then he would have known that we do not deserve a seperate state..we dont have it in us..we are radical angry senseless animals who have been committing a lot of sins IN THE NAME OF GOD..this nation..my nation..will never learn..they do not have the ability to learn..they are hopeless..i am ashamed of being a pakistani.!!Recommend

  • aamir gul
    Jan 6, 2011 - 11:26AM

    our news channels are dominated by bigoted,rightwing anchors,newscasters & especially the newsreporters.what the sane ppl in this country should do is to make their voices heard on live calls when they open their phone lines,let the pakistani society know that rationally thinking ppl exist in this country still.
    we can also share on facebook,email,twitter,myspace different articles,blogs so more ppl can know about the articles we like.Recommend

  • Salman Khan
    Jan 6, 2011 - 11:54AM

    its a trend these days that politicians and other stars make statements against islam and then there is a very famous line “meray bayan ko thor maror kar paish kia gaya”. Fozia Wahab made a statement in favour of Hazrat Umer (RA) and then she didnt even apologize. Shahbaz Sharif begged taliban openly and then said the same line. In case of Salman Taseer, you should watch the videos on youtube where he openly called this law a BLACK LAW (kala qanun). Although i don’t support what happened to him but who will enforce all these laws? there are cartoons of the Holy prophet (SAWW) there are newspaper columns abusing Muhammad (SAWW) and none of the islamic state is doing anything so individuals will have to take some step. its the frustration that said it all this time.Recommend

  • Imran
    Jan 6, 2011 - 12:04PM

    @ Muhammed….so when you suggest, “These mullahs should be killed because they are the actual blasphemers!!!!”………is that an edifice (fatwa) or an extremist (rant)……because a statement like that is an echo reflecting “these fanatics”…..so what is the difference, why “these” killings would be acceptable?
    The fact is we can not be trigger happy from any school of thought. Two wrongs don’t make a right!
    Where is the objective tolerance?

    …I believe this all stems from lack of education…..talk about Democracy @ 55% literacy rate..with 2:1 male vs female ratio. We have a long way to go for being any where near a western styled democracy; so why emulate the west in media approach; it does not suit us YET! I agree with the author. RIGHT NOW, we need to first educate the society and also educate them in media approach. After all Media creates and invents public opinion.Recommend

  • mawra batool
    Jan 6, 2011 - 12:38PM

    i agree with you fully.. our media does not have any ethical values and they have lost their morality as well. anything they believe is sensational and will create a hype among the people is made the headline in news.our news anchors think that making politicians fight and making them have useless arguments will increase the popularity of their show!!! they need to understand that they 9media) is an important social institution and they play a vital role in shaping the society. they should give news but should keep the national interest in mind!!! it is very sad to see our media which is the Representative of Pakistan internationally is showing such immature behavior! obviously the extremism that is prevailing in the society is because of what the people see in the media!! i believe that it is now high time and the youth should start participating in the media. these unethical people should be thrown out of media now!!! this message should now spread out to as many people possible!Recommend

  • Javed Malik
    Jan 6, 2011 - 1:53PM

    Samad, very clear take. MashaAllah.

    By the way, what are the credentials of Maher Bokhari? I have not seen such an ignorant and self righteous anchor. She can easily compete with the likes of Ansaar Abbasi, Irfan Siddi etc. She in recent talk shows has been in total hysteria and unkind with many people who wanted to state their position. I do not who will stop this madness on Pakistani channels. Recommend

  • Jan 6, 2011 - 3:44PM

    no comments .

    But media should obey a policy which have been developed in favor of nation and religion.Recommend

  • ans awais
    Jan 6, 2011 - 9:17PM

    yes i agree that the media has successfully created the perception that politicians are malicious, immoral and irreligious.” media has a great influence on us. the every thing that media show we believe this is not the right thing. other thing is that the most of the people who are anchors and controlling the channels are biased if one channel is showing the totally the one picture of the issue than other will be showing the other picture of the issue. almost all of the channel are biased and never show the both picture of the issue.amendment should be made in laws of PEMRA because people are using this source of information in wrong wayRecommend

  • zubair torwali
    Jan 6, 2011 - 10:08PM

    Wow!! the mad media. It will lead us to choas. Recommend

  • Jan 6, 2011 - 11:54PM

    i think Salmaan Taseer’s killing is a ‘Political’ murder…Recommend

  • Asghar Zaidi
    Jan 7, 2011 - 12:02AM

    It is sad event but it not the last. In Zia era religious party infiltrated its men in media.They are still occupying the high positions in newspapers and tv channels as well. One in media can understand my words( I also work with an urdu tv channel) as man sitting beside him is anti democratic, anti non muslim and pro taliban. He thinks that qadyanis have no right to live, shias should leave the country، he hates moderates, he believes that women are made to be as kaneez.If you ever dare to disagree, then you are a non believer or an American agent. I remember the day when qadyanis mosques were attacked in Lahore, they were laughing and making fun of there killings. My God. When I saw at one of my high up he read what was in my eyes and knowing the fact that I am not a qadyani he said “We don’t compromise on our religion”. I was speech less, I understood that that was “their” religion I had nothing to do with that. Our shift in charge is always very uncomfortable by telling the suicide bomber as terrorist. Qadri is not alone, media jihadi brigade will fight his case. You will see. Recommend

  • Shahid Ashraf
    Jan 7, 2011 - 12:15AM

    I totally agree with you Mr. Khurram…. Recommend

  • Freeha Shaukat
    Jan 7, 2011 - 6:17AM

    True Samad, the immaturity of our media, is like the many clerics that misguide the lost lambs in this land. The power of the spoken and written word is immense. Instead of promoting discourse and diversity of thought in a respectable manner, many are guilty of their own incredibly crude form of agenda setting that only perpuates the polarized mindsets in this country.Recommend

  • Shahryar+Ahmed
    Jan 7, 2011 - 12:59PM

    Agree with the author 110%. Unfortunately nowadays people in both print & electronic media below than mediocre, especially those employed by the Jang group. People like AA & HM with dubious past & for sale to the lowest bidder.

    We are responsible for creating these monsters by watching & reading their views. Media has played a very big & negative part in recent times. We have created them & now we must suffer until we realize & correct or wrongs.Recommend

  • saad ishfaq
    Jan 8, 2011 - 1:00AM

    Author has pointed out the most significant current dilemma of our society. Yes media, especially the electronic media is playing a vital role in creating the public opinion but this is the time to really think and pinpoint the main issue. Unfortunately we as a Pakistani lacks the basic ingredient of “Unity”.

    After going through the author’s article and all respectable comments, one thing is clear that we as a nation are broken into pieces of Maulvis, Media, Politicians, Terrorists, Irreligious, Public, Government and many more. Who are these all? They all are Pakistanis. Maulvis, Politicians, Media owners and even Qadri is Pakistani, they all are from our society and share the same nationality as we do.

    The main point which i want to emphasize is that we need to abolish the versatile segmentation of our society into creed, cast and color. In addition to that we have to focus on the education(from grass root level) of our country. so that we can produce good humans and good Muslims and good Pakistanis.

    Education is the only tool that can bring tolerance, responsible media, public centric politicians and will broaden the horizon of our thoughts as a nation. Recommend

  • Kamran Saleem
    Jan 8, 2011 - 7:56PM

    Remember Lal Masjid. The media men were the main instigators for acting swiftly and later they switched sides, describing the whole incident as carnage and demonising the state as villain. We all know that all hell broke loose after that. Same happened this time as very aptly articulated by the author. These semi literate “Robin Hoods” in vernacular media are ruling the roost in my country while compulsively driven by our innate masochism, we give the viewership their channels so desperately seek at whatever moral cost. All for what…… only and only “Money”. On top of that they shamelessly rally together, portraying to be champions of some higher cause, whenever their motivations are questioned.Tell me what are the credentials of most of these celebrity anchors. Yet each one is an expert on all things ranging from economics, policy, strategy, sports, diplomacy, international affairs, entertainment and you can add anything and everything to the list. One thing, however, these all knowing loudmouth champions of free speech do not (read dare not) question are the religious bigots and their hate mongering. How could they, being fully aware of their irrationality and radical thought. These so called Maulanas can easily declare them Wajib ul Qatl (condemned to death) by handing out a single “on the go” fatwa and there would be some frustrated and misguided pervert like Qadri ready to implement it for free. I remember a wise man telling me the other day, that it is easier to stand up to a tyrant and say the proverbial Kalma e Haq (the truth) on his face these days then to do the same thing before these bigots (Whose motivations, by the way, are no less mundane than most of these champions of free speech). A very good article indeed, but sadly the only on the subject available on the net. Recommend

  • zahid khan
    Jan 8, 2011 - 11:29PM

    if u r implying that this has nothing to do with the political elite of Pakistan depriving the nation of basic rights e.g. health and education. giving them less than 5% of gdp on these pillars of soceity. then i say “you are not a wise man my friend”Recommend

  • Farhan Qureshi
    Jan 9, 2011 - 4:42PM

    At last, something really good from Samad. Congrats.Recommend

  • Usmani
    Jan 9, 2011 - 9:45PM

    Thus far the most positive analysis of the reality. I do not agree though, that “The injustices in society, poverty, corruption and the lack of concern for the ‘awam’ by politicians had little to do with this act”. In a fact This is one of the factors which breeds “HATE”, Yes I would agree it is not the politicians alone, all had played a role in it besides them. The Army Generals,Bureaucrats, Judiciary, Media and the radical Mullah. And they continue to do so.Recommend

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