Posts Tagged ‘Media Freedom’

Pakistani Media, Freedom and Responsibility

Monday, June 9, 2008


Freedom is a blessing and sometimes we take it for granted. When it comes to nations being free, we much appreciate the fact that we hold our beliefs without the fear of someone. However, in any profession, freedom is as much important as freedom of practicing ones’ religion. Although free, citizens of a nation are bound to follow the laws of the country in which they reside. Similarly, there are codes of ethics and laws of practice for all professionals which are followed with responsibility.

Journalism (both print and electronic), like any other profession, also has a code of conduct, code of ethics or laws of practice which sets some ethical and moral limits on reporting. It provides non-legislated guidelines to follow and outlines service standards we can expect from a media. Code of conduct doesn’t affect freedom of reporting but only makes professionals responsible for their work.

Is our media responsible?

Its a common practice worldwide that violence, brutality, sadism, bloodshed and cruelty on TV screens is not shown without a warning as it impacts human emotions. It can create mental distress. Voilence on TV can make people gradually adopt what they are watching and become violent themselves. It also makes young children cultured to violence. Responsible media channels avoid showing disturbing video clips, pictures that they believe might disturb the viewers; young kids can be wrongly influenced from this as well.

For media that follows code of conduct would not show Karachi firing video clips without a warning. On our media live telecast of this terrifying incident was shown proudly. They made it thrilling without thinking how badly it will affect people (and our young kids).

Many channels do not show deaths or bloodshed as it creates fear among viewers. They say showing dead-bodies on TV is like robbing decency of dead people. Our media? It doesn’t miss a chance of showing dead bodies on TV and not to mention what they did during 2005 Earthquake. And then they (as usual) proudly said how “exclusive” videos they showed during that disaster. I wonder what they would have done if they had a chance to broadcast Lal-Masjid operation live. I think we would have seen live videos of people being killed, of injured people with blood all over and crying, of people burnt into flames. Imagine what would have happened to Pakistani nation, who is still in shock, if they would have watched these live killing videos.

Most of the time it seems that our media spots a fight and then plays up with that fight or uncovers a tragedy, and then makes a headline of it. It makes it difficult for its readers to decide as to what is truth and what is truth-likeness, what is shown and what is essence. I do not think media is innocent for its role for mystifying people; whether this role is conscious or unconscious.

Coming to entertainment, it is well known globally that all TV programs are not suited for all ages; therefore, they developed program classification. In responsible media channels, all programs are classified into different categories and before every program they guide their viewers as to what age-group this program is suited for; unlike our media where no program has any classification. These classifications tell you what you are about to watch; whether it has any coarse language, violence, adult themes etc.

Today, we see on our channels (and in newspaper) what only makes people insomniac and infuriated, what creates anxiety inside us or what increases ones’ blood pressure. This happens because our media presents news to us as “sensational” and “thrilling” rather sensitive. All these thrilling and sensational news are sourced from “Baa-khabar” sources and we never come to know who those “Baa-khabar” sources are.

Many people would argue that this is what happening around us and what media is showing is the truth. I don’t disagree with this but I also believe people do not want to see blood and deaths on their TV screens; they don’t expect flowers with news but wouldn’t mind if violence in the news in toned down without compromising news value. Media can use its creativity to present truth to its viewer without being too blunt.

I don’t mean to question our media’s intention to bringing truth to people and appreciate times when they showed responsibility, however, I believe our media can be more responsible in reporting news. I believe it can ensure that news are neither underreported to a level where it makes people quiet nor it’s sensationalize to such a degree that it doesn’t let people think and to make their intelligent choice.

Like they say, “Freedom of expression should never forsake the unwritten law of responsibility”