Media Responsibilities
By Hasaan Saeed

December 15, 2009

The media has a set of responsibilities in a lot of different various ways when it comes to reporting or presenting anything. Due to the right of freedom of speech, the media can tend to neglect its sense of responsibility that it faces. However in Pakistan, sixteen television channels have endorsed voluntarily prepared code of conduct for live coverage of terrorism related incidents. Before people start thinking globally that Pakistan is the epicenter of terrorism, we should cause awareness that we as a nation do not stand terrorism and are doing everything possible to eradicate is. The media can help with this by causing more awareness in an optimistic manner of our achievements regarding it.

Professionals from Aaj News, ARY News, Awaz TV, Business Plus, Channel Five, Dawn News, Din News, Dunya News, Express News, Geo News, Khyber News, News One, Punjab TV and Star Asia, Royal News, Samma News and Waqt News participated in the Discussion. They have voluntarily committed to self-created broad guidelines concerning terrorism coverage. However I feel that they should help more in causing awareness on how us Pakistanis are fighting against terrorism and doing a good job at it.

All the media professionals agreed to speed up the process of implementation of the voluntary coverage rules in line with each channel’s technical capacity and editorial policy. They should also decide to spread awareness of the operation carried out by Pakistan. The participants evaluated the points of an initial proposal and made a number of suggestions to make the document comprehensive. It was unanimously agreed that arrangements may be made to provide mid career training to camera crew, reporters, panel producers and news anchorperson to professionalize their work. This is a very good and applaud able step taken as there was a great need of this kind of action on the part of the media.

More over it has been decided that the training sessions may be organized by respective channels for their staff or may be a collective effort benefiting a cross section of electronic media persons. New managers gathered at the event from across the country also agreed to closely liase with each other on professional matters especially those which relate to public and viewer interest. There was also an agreement on continuing and consultative process and codifying shared results.

However having said that, it can be noted by the code of conduct signed by these various leading television channels that the agreement is based on “terrorism” reporting only. That is another point which can be raised as terrorism is not the only thing which the media reports, as obviously there are other things also. Terrorism reporting was only one issue. The media can also tend to neglect its responsibilities when it comes to reporting political agendas or biased reporting against anything, more over there the media should put more focus on spreading as much awareness as it can on the fact that Pakistan is confronted with the challenge of fighting extremism and terrorism. Pakistan Army is successfully conducting the operation and it has the people‘s support.

The thing is that the media represents its respective society. If there is a Pakistani news channel which is following the code of conduct on terrorism reporting but when it comes to political reporting, they can get biased against someone and start pointing fingers of corruption, that would be something that the media should handle with more care. Making the politicians look bad is something that the media tends to focus on in Pakistan. Fair enough that the public has the right to know, but there is a proper approach towards situations like these. The Pakistani media has been very helpful in making Pakistan look like one of the most corrupted countries in the world. As if things are not bad enough with the terrorist activities, the media is making political issues and hyping it up. This can be very bad for the economy and especially from a FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) point of view. Why would anyone from the international market want to invest in a country where the media keeps on focusing on how corrupted the country is? How can anyone in the international circuit respect us, if we, or the media which represents us, cannot respect ourselves?

Putting Foreign Direct Investment aside, the media needs to focus on how to make people in the world aware of the fact that we as a country are doing everything possible to fight terrorism. If the media focuses hard, it can actually help making Pakistan more respectful in the international circuit, if they start focusing on issues such as how we are fighting terrorism, instead of on how to make racist promos.

Seems like that the media in Pakistan is still struggling to grow out of its childhood and it will take it some time to do so. The media should be more careful in these kinds of sensitive matters since it can represent the nature and the thinking of our society worldwide, and if dealt with care it can help in Pakistan’s international cause today. Who knows, how easy it is to shift the balance of the point of view for a person sitting abroad thinking about what kind of a country Pakistan is, just by how the media helps to portray it.

The main point rose for “On how to use the media” is that every issue that the media promotes is supported by the entire nation watching the news. So putting terrorism aside, the media has been accusing the government for “not doing anything for the people”. Often anchors rattle off “sugar crisis, flour crisis and energy crisis”, in one go. As far as the energy crisis is related, it can be safe to say that it is a lot less than what it was a couple of years ago even though the consumption has increased in the last two years. Why is the media acting so negative? Why does it not give credit where it is due? Flour was a bumper crop because the government gave a much needed increase in price to the farmer and this is the only crisis regarding wheat. Apart from forcefully trying to keep the price down and importing sugar at great cost, our government is trying earnestly to alleviate the crisis. In fact according to an international report we are on the verge of a turnaround and the only things holding us back are the power shortage, which is not the government’s fault, and the instability the electronic media is determined to promote. Pakistani government is doing everything it can to stabilize the country, only the media needs to make people more aware of this specific fact. Even if it may seem that there are a lot of corrupted minds at hand when it comes to talking about the NRO list that is still exceptional example and cannot be termed for the entire country.

The media should help us raise our voices that we as Pakistanis can stand up against any wrong done to us. May it be terrorism/extremism, or political issues. Instead of acting negatively, the media can help donate the people’s voice. The minority of the country can reach out through the media who want to be heard on how to solve international issues such as terrorism. Pakistan is fighting terrorism and doing a good job at it. President Obama has also acknowledged this fact on the press conference along with Manmohan Singh on the 24t of November; the Pakistani media should also get this message across and cause a sense of unity and faith.

Having said that, the media can in a way be termed to be in charge of portraying different kinds of messages across the country. It is bad enough that we are living in troubled times where there are a lot of terrorist activities going around in the country. Meanwhile the list of NRO beneficiaries that has come out in the open is not as important of an issue as the terrorist and extremism activities going around in the country. How is that helping the situation at hand? Pakistan is confronted with the challenge of fighting extremism. There are people in Pakistan which are dying of terrorism; this issue should be handled in a tactful manner. We as a nation can fight against terrorism by the help of the media. Furthermore, the media can help the situation by making the image of our country in the international media as to how good our operation is against fighting terrorism. The Pakistani army is in the fight against terrorism, and they are doing a good job. The media can help people focus on how strong we are when together and we as a nation can take on anything. I believe it is very important to be a positivist and keep the hopes up high. I urge the media to be the strength of my voice in getting this message across. The media should help us raise our voices for justice to be done in a systematic and responsible manner. It is most definitely possible.

Sources; The News, Daily Times, Dawn, The Nation

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