Human-beings are distinguishable from other species on Earth through their intelligence. Information is the food for their intelligent minds. Communication of messages has continuously evolved along human civilizations. The communication technologies have constantly advanced the reach & speed of information from newspapers to radio, television to social media. So has the capacity of media influence and role in societies increased exponentially? So much so that today, media is a game-changer in many aspects of national life.

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The human mind is prone to passive indoctrination and this is where the media of
today excels. This fact is compounded by the fact that the authenticity of the information sources is seldom verified and hearsay is considered the truth. This is the modern perception management. While the schools can only teach the ideologies, media has the power over the complete spectrum of life. This power is often put to use by the state, multinationals and the elite to pursue their own agendas at the price of the common folk.

Media is in fact a tool of content delivery. It is used to gather information, make decisions, learn about life & global happenings, to seek entertainment etc. It has become a virtual world in itself so captivating that it has immersed people in itself. The power brokers and marketers have been quick to sense the grip of media in people’s life. Media campaigns today take place before war to shape public opinion and muster international support. Even religious fanatics make maximum use of propaganda to catch potential followers and cover up their heinous crimes. Political manipulators also master the art of media to fake up the ground realities through bizarre logics. The economic pundits of banking institutions use the media to portray economic pictures as per their hidden agendas. All this happens and the common element in all these is the common public, the nation at large which is the target of all the media manipulators.

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It was only a decade and half ago that the Pakistani media was let loose by the then
President of Pakistan, Gen (R) Pervez Musharraf. Earlier, the media was much of a state monopoly especially television. The other big thing during the last decade has been the enormous growth of internet throughout the country. Another important development was the widespread use of smartphones that brought the media access to almost everyone at any time. This provided a parallel social media outlet that has gained much importance at least in the urban settlements of Pakistan. The freedom granted to media took on a frenzy state where private media houses went to extremes to earn money whichever way it was possible even if it meant backstabbing their very own country.

Shortfalls in Pakistani Media

1. Corruption
As Socrates stated that with power comes corruption; so was the case with the media houses. Anchor persons were bought to favour particular political parties as was the case of Saleem Safi and Najam Sethi fully backing PML(N) during the election campaigns of 2013. Whole channels were vitually bought to side with political parties like Geo backing PML(N). Geo went as far as getting financial grants from India & USA to get funding by promoting their agendas in Pakistan. The “Aman ki Asha” initiative was a flagship program run on the behest of the Indians who were preparing for Operation Cold Start at home and telling Pakistani public a story of friendship; a classical deception technique.

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2. Vulgarity
Mannerisms once taught to the public through the like of PTV vanished gradually. It was ironically replaced with violence. Dramas with fighting and shooting scenes along with vulgar language were being aired. Even the decent cartoons like Tom & Jerry were replaced with violent ones like Ben 10 and Pokemon.

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3. Foreign Intervention
As Pakistani media went commercialized, revenue became the motive. Things went so far as to get funding from foreign states often hostile to the the Pakistani nation itself. The disposal of media at the doorsteps of foreign intervention left the Pakistani nation prone to manipulation by hostile nations. Programs like “Aalia nay Pakistan Chorr dia”, depicting Pakistan as a sick state were being aired. On the other hand every other news channel was airing Bollywood songs, dances and celebrity news as if India was the ideal country to be in.

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Photo: Aalia nay Pakistan Chorr dia

4. Unbalance Reporting
The media has been observed to present news in an out-of-proportion manner. While the money laundering case of Ayan Ali had many avenues to be explored, the media was focused on glamourizing her all the way along. The issues of water security and the role of government is seldom touched. The corruption of PML(N) other than the is seldom reported. While the objectionable film scenes of actresses in Bollywood get reported, nothing was heard of about the child abuse in Kasur for years. While the Asghar Khan Case is reported over ad over again but the political treason cases of Memogate is forgotten. While a retired colonel’s video of taking money from a property tycoon gets viral, little gets reported on the billions of corruption is LNG contracts, Metro Bus, Railways, privatization ventures etc.

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Pakistani News Channels

5. Inadequate Reporting on Strategic Level
The Pakistani media has failed to provide a global and regional perspective to the audience. The membership of SCO was a giant event but it went under-reported. The invasions of Middle-Eastern countries are never talked of. The acts of destabilisation and disintegration of Muslim lands is unheard here. The role of India in Pakistan was aired once the Army raised concerns of the involvement of RAW in destabilisation activities in Pakistan. A few lone voices of Zaid Hamid and Mubashar Luqman have talked considerably on such issues.

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6. Promoting Rift between institutions
Highlighting and promoting rift between institutions of Executive, Army and Judiciary has been selling a lot on media. The speeches of Gen(R) Ashfaq Pervez kiyani and Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry were aired as tit-for-tat replies. Unfortunately the lack of trust that the political parties have shown in the Armed forces adds fuel to the fire. Even political uprising are blamed on the forces such as the Dharna of PTI.

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7. Disfiguring Ideology
Confusions are being planted in the minds of the nation regarding the ideology of
Pakistan itself. While Israel has declared the Torah as their constitution, our liberal
intellectuals claim that Pakistan was never achieved for Islam’s practice rather as a state to achieve greater economic freedom. Infact Islam is the only binding force amongst racially, linguistically, culturally and economically diverse regions and peoples of Pakistan. The problem has been that religious tensions have been funded by countries like KSA and Iran to play proxy wars on our country. The media has not come upto its role of promoting peaceful religious harmony. Instesd preachers ike Ghazi Abdur Rasheed of Lal Masjid are given air time who openly promote terrorism of the likes of TTP. On the other hand, seculars like Marwi Memon argue whether Iqbal & Jinnah were right to create a separate Muslim country.

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8. Recoloring the History

An honorable view of national history is essential for inculcating a sense of nationhood and pride in the masses. However in recent history, there have been tirades of redefined historical perspectives on Pakistani history. Jinnah: the father of the nation, was labelled a secular. Iqbal’s role has termed unimportant by the like of Marwi Memon. The motive for Pakistan had been presented as economic interests of Muslims on Geo. Programs titled “Pakistan ka Matlab kia, Alif Bay aur Jeem” have been aired. The criminal role of India is almost never highlighted until its popular to do so.

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9. Lack of Educational Programs

The media has been pumping in a lot of glamour and thrill in the transmissions but
a lack of focus on education exists. Telecast of lectures of Virtual University was once done on media a decade or so ago. So were many educational programs Such as
“Sesame Street” to teach children aired as well. Even entertainment serials like Back to the Future had a sense of technological inquisitiveness attached to them. Although the Internet might be a richer source for information, the development of a taste for learning might be better achieved through the mass media.

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10. Lack of Content focused on National Life

Programs like the “Travel Guide of Pakistan” were a rich source of exploring the national landscape, cultures and people. Similarly PTV used to show videos on history. Focus was also laid on ancient architecture. Amongst the pomp & show of western and Indian cultural onslaught, these themes seem to have taken a setback in the arena of national media.

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11. Political Intervention

Barring the Armed forces, there might be an odd or two institutions that would have
left unaffected by the political interference and media has been no exception. BOL
Network’s side-lining was another attempt by the political elite to secure the media turf for their manipulative motives. Such interference, evident through the bashing of the selected few prominent being the forces and a nascent political party challenging the status quo tends to distort realities by fact manipulations and incomplete pictures.

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12. Defaming Opponents

The media houses have earned considerable power and influence. Anyone considered a threat has been vehemently criticized and defamed. Notable examples include the defaming of Zaid Hamid: a security analyst as “Lal Topi Wala”, Sheikh Rasheed’s fun making on Geo’s program “Khabarnaak”, ISI’s defaming by Geo on Hamid Mir’s gunfire incident etc. Such campaigns are extremely dangerous for national consumption as they are designed to distort the reality and superimpose hidden agendas.

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13. Lack of Accountability

Any attempt to regulate the media has often been termed as an “Attack on Media”.
Notable amongst such incidents has been the ban on Geo by Pres. Pervez Musharraf. While channels like Geo have defaulted on billions of Rupees in taxes, they operate
unscathed. The earning of media house and anchor persons stay unchecked. And
money makers amongst the media continue to sell their airtime for spitting foreign
propaganda unchecked.

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14. Lack of Media presence of Pak Defence Forces exposing them to
Indiscriminate Criticism

It ha seen felt strongly that the Armed forces need a strong media presence to propagate the work they render towards the national defence, nation building and countering enemy propaganda. Much has been done on the social media such as twitter and facebook where public accounts of agencies such as ISPR exist but the television is still the common man’s media today.

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Photo: DAWN

15. Obscenity

High moral standards have been a hallmark of Pakistani and Muslim societies in
general. However, degradation of the ethical code of conduct is a serious note of concern. Visual obscenity mixed with obscene discussions have been erupting on the media. Such a trend is a slow death of the nation’s honor.

Media continues to play a dominating role in shaping public perception. Pakistani media has grown rapidly in the last few years. It is felt however that it has yet to mature out mere profiteering into a national pillar. Lack of accountability and political interference has badly affected the transparency of media. Profiteering has led to obscenity and vulgarity and in extreme cases treason. A serious effort to cure the media is required to curb it of its vices and utilize its huge potential for nation building.

1 COMMENT

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