Posts Tagged ‘ Journalism ’

The Missing Link

It’s ironic how the mainstream media deviates from what is important to a 180 million people to what aids individual interests. Sadly, it has become an acceptable way of life that a corrupt politician, misleading opinion-makers and the ‘foreign forces’, are allowed to govern and then destroy the efforts of aspiring youth population to bring change. And when hoping for one becomes a sin, surfacing selfishness and disorientation spreads like a disease.

A country, by the very definition of consequences of any chaos, in this case, which is constant in nature, suffers from Post-traumatic stress disorders. Whether this may be because of the War President or the Drone War President.

Perhaps our own short-term ill-conceived tacit strategies are haunting us back to the Dark Ages.

Since 2008, the Drone warfare has increased radically, there are almost 64 bases across the globe engaging in US drone missions. Currently, positioned in over 14 different countries, some for intelligence gathering purposes and others for targeting ‘populations’ those are ‘sources’ of National Security threat to the US.

One of these frequently targeted area is the North Waziristan, a place I never visited, nor which the Pakistani Army dares to go, clearly many Americans wouldn’t know how it actually looks like either. But regardless of how complicit the US or the Pakistani Government is towards civilian deaths, what is strange that none of the overly exuberant Civil Society Organization has been able to establish Reprieve Pakistan. The only people churning out remotely smart questions and op-eds are the ones not sitting in key decision making boardrooms of legislators and policy-makers.

A question put forward in a documentary produced by Alternate Focus, by an author and an activist Tom Hayden was; “Are these weapons [Drones] keeping us [United States of America] safe, or do they just incite further terrorist attacks? And is their use a violation of the Geneva Conventions?”

According to the Geneva Convention, most serious of crimes are termed grave breaches, will the drone strategy be termed as one? If so how far, will one go to distort the lines  – even further between the combatants and the civilians…

Why Pakistan is an easy target and is usually not a hard nut to crack; well that is mainly because we critically remain in a self-sustained state of anarchy and inefficiency.

The combination of the two defines the very nature of how the country is perceived and dealt with.  According to a few professors in Israel, the price of anarchy is by now a standard measure for quantifying the inefficiency introduced in games due to selfish behavior, and is defined as the ratio between the optimal outcome and the worst Nash equilibrium.

Even though Imran Khan’s Tehreek-i-Insaaf portrays itself as a likely political force, which will act as a restraining factor and influence the scale of corruption in the country, yet the reality remains that the incumbent disease is widespread and systemic in law enforcement agencies, in the offices of the public service etc etc.

A country with massive power failures, leadership crisis, fanaticism, water-and-what-not shortages we really fancy our ‘long marches’ or as my friend put it over dinner ‘long drives’. Such actions only portray the level of commitment of these so-called power influences to this nation. The choices and then the priorities are all dangled up in an elusive dream.

Its 2012, as India goes into celebrating its first and the European region into marking its 10th year of Polio free certification, Pakistan is still battling possible travel restrictions over the virus. And even more absurdly, with the Taliban in the Waziristan creatively linking the predator drone programme to the polio vaccination of over 200,000 children in troubled region, there’s a possibility that thousands of families will be at the risk of being missed out during the inoculation campaign.

Who really decides for over a 180 million people, when each pillar of the state is losing its supposed grace?

A Free Press? What if Wapping were Islamabad?

Lord Hunt of Wirral has proposed a revamp of the Press Complaints Commission, which he now chairs. His is a serious and considered response to the complex issues being considered with great dexterity by Lord Justice Leveson’s historic inquiry.

The challenges faced by Leveson and Hunt are daunting – but transposing their activities to Pakistan would prove formidable even for men of such intellect, skill and diplomacy.

Pakistan has witnessed a huge increase in the number of private news channels in the last decade. Previously, the market was monopolised by a single state-owned television network that was heavily influenced by government functionaries and provided limited information access to the public.

Today, the people of Pakistan can watch dozens of news channels and hope to get more credible information in real time. However, the emerging situation has also spawned new questions and challenges that must be confronted to improve the overall quality of journalism in the country.

Many applaud Pakistan’s media for playing a significant role in the reinstatement of the country’s superior judiciary, bringing down the Musharraf-led administration, creating the environment for the restoration of democracy and frequently challenging corrupt politicians and the political system of Pakistan. On the flipside, many condemn it for glorifying militants, spewing hatred and creating despondency among people. Who is right?

Pakistan’s media organisations were in the forefront of exposing ‘disappearances’ across the country and raising many other human rights violations at a time when the U.S.-led ‘war on terror’ was in its full bloom. However, the same news channels also got many other things wrong and failed to create clarity about some vital issues that could have had existential implications for their state.

Pakistan’s decision to side with the United States in the aftermath of the September 11 terror attacks was frequently criticised by the mainstream news channels. Few of them realised that Islamabad did not have the option of staying neutral in the ‘war on terror’ since it was deeply involved in Afghanistan and supported the Taliban regime that harboured Osama bin Laden’s Al Qaeda network. They also accused the government of fighting the U.S. war at a time when diehard militant factions were using their country’s soil not only to export violence in other parts of the region but also to target innocent civilians and security forces in their own country. Subsequently, the media’s discourse strengthened the militant propaganda and weakened the state’s ability to take the ownership of the war and swiftly respond to the challenge at hand.

Some journalists believe that some high-profile anchors working with leading Urdu-language news channels were pursuing the rightwing agenda on purpose. But a closer examination of the internal landscape of these organisations can also provide us more insight into this phenomenon.

Looking at the growing influence of Pakistan’s private news channels, it is sometimes easy to forget that they are relatively new to the business and have employed young journalists with limited field experience. While these journalists have brought fresh energy to the local broadcast industry and have become intimately involved in policy debates and political and decision making processes, they have also been required to venture into areas which were previously viewed as the preserve of senior journalists with concrete skill sets and proven track record of serious journalism. Some young journalists are now seen as performers as much as reporters. Bombastic talk shows and sensationalised issues keep the ratings of their channels high. So Pakistan’s media stands accused of committing a number of professional felonies. Private news channels are believed to be suffering from the breaking news syndrome – get things fast, not right.

This raises a credibility issue, something that was reflected in the media coverage after the U.S. Navy SEALs launched the Abbottabad operation in May 2011. Some of the leading Pakistani news channels kept displaying a fake image of Osama bin Laden’s corpse for several hours without confirming its authenticity.

The broadcasting of graphic images after terror attacks spreads greater anxiety among people, creating an impression that the local media is unwittingly playing into the hands of militant groups who are doing their best to strike terror into people’s hearts.

Media accountability remains limited. While most journalists remain understandably suspicious of government’s attempts to regulate their industry, they have fallen short of formulating their own code of conduct to display their sense of social responsibility and commitment to quality journalism.

When a senior DawnNews journalist, Matiullah Jan, launched a programme to expose the irregularities of the media in Pakistan, there was a backlash from among his own community. The show was stopped by the management of the news channel and the anchor was excommunicated by some of his close friends.

Mr Jan asserts that the extent of media freedom continues to fluctuate in Pakistan since “it is one issue that is usually determined on political, rather than legal, grounds.” Unlike most of his fellow journalists, however, he feels that media regulations may not be entirely bad for journalists.

Last year, the government revived the Press Council of Pakistan to receive complaints against news organisations. However, the Council has not accomplished much so far and its mandate and mode of functioning is opaque.

The media needs to devise a proper self-regulating code of conduct, acceptable to all stakeholders in the industry, within a proper and obligatory framework that does not only focus on their responsibilities but also extends them security and provides them with freedom of information and expression. The fact that such a code has not been formulated so far reflects the extent of fragmentation and lack of confidence among the media community.

According to one journalist, who attended a recent Agahi workshop in Lahore organized by Mishal Pakistan, the country’s journalists are represented by different media bodies. “Most of these associations,” he contended, “are at cross-purposes with each other. The groups that represent the owners do not speak for the rights of their employees and impose greater responsibilities on them. The media organisations representing the working journalists, on the other hand, view things differently and tend to hold the owners accountable as well.”

Whatever may be said about this problem, responsible journalists mostly understand the rudimentary principles of journalism and do not sacrifice their commitment to their profession at the altar of their organisation’s commercial interests. Technically, therefore, it should not be difficult for them to devise a proper code of conduct.

Perhaps, after they have finished dealing with the British media, Lord Justice Leveson and Lord Hunt should offer their combined talents to Islamabad? They might be there a long time.

(The article originally appeared in the Huffington Post and was co-authored by The Lord Carlile of Berriew)

clear-skies & bright-lights dimmed

There’s nothing fake about Balochistan, nor there is an absolute reality to what we see, hear and delinquently opinionate on. Pakistan is not Lahore, Karachi or Islamabad, it is when you travel to Quetta and from Quetta passing through Qilla Abdullah, Khan Kili, Kili Malik Ghulam Jilani on Chaman Bypass  all the way up to the Pak-Afghan Border’s Friendship Gate; is where you find the real Pakistan.

There’s nothing so ‘friendly’ about the Gate accept for the polio team administering vaccinations to the Afghan children. Something that even the Afghan’s have common in Spinboldak.

– we’re a funny nation – its tragic.

Creating new wars or dwelling over decades old conflict does not by any standard defy the odds of sanity. Staying in one’s own comfort zone and talking about Baloch insurgencies and the transgressions of the Law Enforcement Agencies doesn’t change the fact that, Nasrullah, father of 11 growing up amidst conflict, sarcastically explains how painful it is to live to survive and to support his family. Yet he naively laughs off his agonies and brushes away the scars of hurt, as he drives us all the way to Chaman on the most brutal road – conditioned to leave one with a backache for life.

As we are driven through the most beautiful part of Pakistan, we see real people, real lives, and shattered dreams hopelessly counting down on the days to the life promised once upon a time by the Quaid in ‘47.

“We should have a State in which we could live and breathe as free men and which we could develop according to our own lights and culture and where principles of Islamic social justice could find free play”.

Mohammad Ali Jinnah

Life is plain harsh, there are no two ways of explaining – this should in an ideal world put most fortunate to shame. We have an undeniable capacity to decapitate ourselves from the realities on the ground and look the other only adding to the miseries of the innocent and the neglect. Chaman and Spinboldak share three villages and a mosque at the Pak-Afghan border; what unfortunately we have failed to share and resolve is our grievances and hatred.

We have been easily relating to nations sitting half way across the world, yet we have failed to relate to the ones living right next-door for the all the good and the bad strategic reasons that led to the decisions we fall short of rectifying.

Balochistan, as I see can be narrowed down to a) internal conflict and b) external influence; both which need to be aggressively resolved and addressed. A safe future for the children of Balochistan lies in the decisions need to be taken ‘NOW’ by the authorities in power, who are ready to face the unforgiving lives crafted over the decades of abandonment outside of their luxurious offices.

Afghan Qoumi Movement, is one of the walk-chalking we drove right pass, and with every passing security check post there was a bleak reminder of ‘Pakistan First’.

‘First’ for who?

Many journalists in Balochistan are exploited into working for free, yet they continue to risk their lives into reporting on community-interest stories. Some have gone to the extent of saying that the profession is nothing but ‘Munshirgiri’. In their part of the world they feel belligerently cut-off from the mainstream media. Post 9-11, journalism was a booming career around Pak-Afghan border just like the economy near one in Chaman.

Might I go into details, would be too risky.

Civilized nations find a way to move forward despite kidnapping, killings and extortions. We need to find one for Balochistan and we need to find one fast; And not stay cuddled up in front of the tube deriving our knowledge on the province from considerably the most exhausting panel competing in the National Awards for who screams the loudest.

Someone very wise once put it across as plainly as; Pakistan losing its ‘Unity’ in diversity, ‘Faith’ in itself(ves) and ‘Discipline’ as a people.

“Murdochracy” – a case in point on media ethics

News of the World, published by News International and an ancillary to the News Corp, now defunct amidst allegations of phone-hacking and corrupt practices has put an end to what Martin Bell claims as “Murdochracy”.

Rupert Murdoch known for outrightly supporting the Iraq war and admitting to using his own media companies for shaping public opinion; tarnishes the integrity of the journalistic community and the profession itself.

“An honest corporate apology must include two parts. One is an expression of regret to the victims of the corporation’s misdeeds. This, News Corp. has done. The other is an honest acknowledgment of what and who caused the wrongdoing, a taking of responsibility by those in charge. This, News Corp. hasn’t even approached, nor does it appear likely to.”

Opinion L.A. – July 19, 2011

Did the ‘media baron’ really had no clue as to what was going on? In his defense…

“Perhaps I lost sight of [the News of the World] because it was so small in the general frame of our company” was what the owner [R. Murdoch] of one of UK’s largest selling tabloid, employing almost 200 people had to say!

Journalism, however becomes a joke…

Timeline: The Fall of Journalistic Ethics

August 8, 2006:  News of the World’s royal editor Clive Goodman and private detective Glenn Mulcaire arrested over claims of intercepting messages sent to the members of the royal family

January 26, 2007: Goodman and Mulcaire plead guilty and are put in jail for four and six months respectively. Andy Coulson, the then editor resigns – claiming he knew nothing about the unethical practice.

June 15, 2010: News Corp places a bid worth £7.8 billion for over 60% of BSkyB. BSkyB rejects 700-pence-per-share offer and jacks it up to more than 800 pence.

January 21, 2011: Andy Coulson resigns over phone-hacking scandal from his position as a communications director at the Downing Street.

April 5, 2011: NoTW’s former news editor Ian Edmondson and chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck arrested over suspicion of conspiring to phone-hacking.

July 4, 2011: Reports of Mulcaire hacking into Milly Dowler, a murdered schoolgirl’s phone surface. Deleting voicemails after she went missing in 2002.

July 6, 2011: David Cameron, British Prime Minister announces a public inquiry into the phone-hacking scandal.

July 10, 2011: NoTW publishes its final edition

Murdoch flies to London to take care of matters.

July 13, 2011: News Corp withdraws its bid for BSkyB.

July 15, 2011: Head of operation News International and Editor NoTW during Dowler’s phone hacking, Rebekah Brooks resigns.

July 17, 2011: Paul Stephenson, Chief of the Metropolitan Police resigns over links to NoTW’s former editor Neil Wallis. Brook is arrested on suspicion of phone hacking and corrupt practices, later bailed.

July 18, 2011: Scotland Yard Assistant Commissioner John Yates resigns. Yates refused to reopen police investigation into the hacking scandal back in 2009. Sean Hoare, NoTW’s former reporter, the first person to publicly allege that Andy Coulson knew about phone hacking, found dead. Reasons unknown.

July 19, 2011: Rupert Murdoch, son James, and the former editor of the News of the World Rebekah Brooks appear before MPs on the phone-hacking scandal…

Would scandals such as these open more debate to the limited ethical systems implemented by the media owners and observed by the journalist community. Or many news organisations of the likes will continue to pose a direct threat to the public interest, while treading on Journalism ethics and standards in the realm of the 1st Amendment.

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