Monster in our midst – alternative view on media

Faisal Naseem has sent us this letter to the editor already published in a daily newspaper. It is worth citing here for it brings forth an alternative perspective on the current hysteria over the Punjab Assembly resolution. Raza Rumi

This is with reference to the resolution by the Punjab Assembly condemning the media for its alleged irresponsibility. Here is the answer to all those who think this tantamounts to damaging democracy. One might recall Justice M. R. Kiyani’s speech on the issue of ‘Freedom of Press’ that he delivered while speaking to journalists of the International Press Association, Zurich. (Ref. ‘Not The Whole Truth’ Pg. No. 193) in which he had observed, “If the press has a right to be free, the individual whom it represents has also a right to his standing in life and not to be defamed; the society for which it caters also has a right to maintain a certain standard of decency and guard against corrupting influences. The journalist may argue that in a free country, the press has a right to publish everything in the first instance, as there is a right to eat everything. But if you eat a snake, you take the consequences”.

This decades-old speech is being quoted here because it has a direct link with incidents of the present. The complaint against the media is that the right to publish everything is just like a right to eat everything. There are two incontrovertible aspects of the resolution that Punjab Assembly has passed; first, the media cannot be left unchecked with the ability to publish anything and everything. Unbridled powers cannot be vested in any institution of the state as unrestrained discretion eventually leads to misuse of discretion. The media must devise internal systems of checks and balances for the sake of constructive journalism and for maintenance of standards of decency according to demands of the society we live in. Leaving it all to the sole discretion of media would continue to create the unpleasant situations that occurred in Punjab Assembly. No sensible or prudent person can deny the fact that some segments of the contemporary media are currently playing a visibly one-sided role, a role that is both questionable and partisan and is being enacted in the name of this newly-invented slogan of ‘investigative journalism’, or sometimes even in the name of ‘greater welfare of the country’. Finally, they resort to citing their ‘national duty’ of ‘helping the public to form an opinion’. In the name of all of the above, one political party is being hammered consistently over the past two years even though it continues to withstand the utterly uncalled for criticism with great fortitude. It is time the media should work out a plan of protecting itself, not just from external threats but also from internal prejudices. There must be certain standards of journalism that everyone must be held to—no matter how powerful and untouchable? -FAISAL NASEEM CHAUDHRY, Lahore, July 10.

http://www.nation.com.pk/pakistan-news-newspaper-daily-english-online/Opinions/Letters/12-Jul-2010/Monster-in-our-midst

9 Comments

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9 responses to “Monster in our midst – alternative view on media

  1. Mustafa Shaban

    I agree that the media needs a lot more checks and balances. It needs to abide by certain codes of conduct and ethics. But that is not why this happened. The problem is that corrupt politicians in general are feeling very threatened as they are being exposed by this media for thier corruption. The media has done some wrong things, but it has also brought transparency to the political system where politicians are finding it hard to hide thier corruption. I think the media needs to be restricted but should continue to expose the politicians. They say that they are concerned about the lack of media regulation but thier real concern is thier exposure.

  2. An Ahmadi Muslim

    @ Mr. Sardar Khan

    Are the sentiment expressed in your comment applicable to Ahmadi Muslims also? I await your response.

    Thank you.

  3. Maryanne Khan

    Faisal
    Regarding accountability in the media.

    It seems to me that role of the Editor in Chief, or of those responsible for exercising the ultimate editorial function are failing. What a paper publishes and what a news service of any nature broadcasts should ultimately rest with a person who has learned the necessary professional ethics, discipline and discrimination in making informed choices amongst the material he receives. That would be a good start — having someone who is accountable for what they publish, hopefully with the sense to distinguish between what is inflammatory and what is informative, and how it is presented.

  4. Faisal Naseem Chaudhry

    @ Maryanne Khan

    I fully agree with your comments. This is all about accountability against un-restricted exercise of discretion by media managers.

  5. Amna Zaman

    @mustafa. We require to have a free and independent media to curb extremism. It is important that let media foil the corrupts of our country and the citizens have a right to know everything.

  6. Mustafa Shaban

    @Amna: I agree

  7. Faisal Naseem Chaudhry

    @ amna

    The point is not to disable or discredit media, it must keep a check on the menace of corruption which is certainly the problem no. 1 of this country. But please try to understand what i intend to convey. I quote an example. According to article 211 of the Constitution, no court shall call in question any proceeding before the supreme judicial council; yet the reference against the CJ was not only called in question rather it was struck down as well. The same Constitution, Article 199(3) prevents a superior court, including the supreme court, from calling in question a matter which pertains to the terms and conditions of service of personnels belonging to armed forces. This is the ground on the basis of which the supreme court rejected appeals of two Lt. Colonels couple of days ago. So discretion vests with the superior courts which constitutional embargo to honour and which one to trample underfoot. Such discretion can not be granted to the media because there are not merely 17 journalist, there are thousands of them, you can not give them a free hand in choosing which corruption to unveil and which not to. In the performance of their duties, they may themselves get into corrupt practices and who is going to check that equally alarming menace. They may try to form a ‘specific public opinion’ in one particular direction against one particular political party in favour of another particular political party; and this is something which is taking place, who can deny this. If media claims it is the fourth pillar of state, though the constitution is silent and will remain silent on the birth of this fourth baby, then it is as much accountable as other three pillars are. Even Judges declare their assets, they have a code of ethics, they are being reprimanded for making willful or innocent political statements. On the other hand, ten years ago a person was making movies on marriage ceremonies, today he is a journalist with finest camera in his hand roaming around on the street looking for sensational clips, yet un-accountable. This is no journalism.

  8. Mansoor Khalid

    Both countries have suffered because of terrorism a lot in so many ways. So I guess this will be on the top of the agenda because there is no issue more dangerous than this one.

  9. Mansoor Khalid

    When everyone tries to dictate their power, these rifts happen. The answer to all this lies in a true democratic culture, where decision are not thrust upon others but mutually agreed upon.