Posts Tagged ‘ News Corp ’

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)

“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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