Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Media of Minority

Media portrayal of minorities, how media presents actions, aspirations, and problems of minorities in a particular country had been a highly sought after subject of research throughout the world for many decades. Most of the researches on media and minority reveal that media does not represent minorities positively and they are often negatively stereotyped , causing exploitation of their rights. Some researchers proved that minorities had been presented as criminals, thugs and rebels.

In Pakistan situation is contrary to the world, here minority is victimizing and exploiting the majority. Pakistani media especially the electronic media is now the most feared institution of country often termed as the thanedar or prosecutor. Here a minority has hijacked this powerful institution. This minority is totally alien to our masses, they don’t know the norms and values of our society, they do not respect the privacy of common man, they do not even believe in the basic rights of the poor people of Pakistan. They believe in only one thing how to get a better rating of their program, a better cost of their show; no matter how embarrassing is it? Mostly these people belong to upper classes or influential backgrounds, often to a specific ethnic minority. Most of these anchors and hosts have no proper training or education and have no or very limited prior exposure and experience of media. They are intentionally or unintentionally victimizing the majority of Pakistan.

While I was writing these lines I watched a headline on a channel “Meri Izzat pe haath kyun dala, Bhabhi ne dewar ko mar dala”. This small news item tells us that how they bluntly declare anyone as culprit without taking into consideration the drastic repercussions for others attached to him/her. They intentionally harass, exploit and disgrace us and make us think the way they want us to. The worst case of media victimization in past was the Lal Masjid tragedy, most of the media channels and newspapers pressurized the sitting government to kill the thousands of student and just when the government started the operation media changed its previous stance and started opposing it.

The other tragic incident was the killing of Salman Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti, media was the main source of inciting people by airing programs on blasphemy issue thus resulting in these killing. Some channels quoted him saying blasphemy as black law but no one ever managed to produce the proof. A woman anchor went to such an extent that she openly prosecuted Salman Taseer in her show and declared him as the sinner, later she was sacked but she is selling the same manjan on another channel.

Another example of media victimization was the news and analysis on flogging of a girl by Taliban in Swat. It was a hot issue for many days giving our media a lot of fun and they enjoyed it by portraying the majority as the people who loves to see young girls openly disgraced and flogged. Later it was revealed that it was a fake video made by an NGO to support the operation rah-e-rast.

Recently a female anchor of a channel crossed all boundaries of ethics and law and chased people in parks investigating them; international media coined the term moral policing for this. The channel had no one with a brain to decide what havoc would that program bring in the lives of those young couples and their families? It’s good to see public reaction on that stupid show which proved that we are not a radical or conservative society as portrayed by our media.

Since early 2000’s, Pakistani television has evolved rapidly and exploded from a single state owned television to more than 80 private owned channels now. Facing stiff competition from other channels hosts always rely on populist measure. The morning shows exploiting the privacy of people often disgracing them; the political drama shows, dramatized crime shows and self defined investigative shows are some examples how media people try to increase their ratings. No doubt electronic media has totally transformed our society since the start of 2000 decade; they have made some very positive changes in common man’s life. But on the other hand they have given them the self defined right to play with the lives of people by exploiting house hold issues and family matters. They have misused their power more than often on issues of national interest.

With increasing instances of media exploitation of public rights, it is now a need of time to press for media consumer rights movement. We need to regulate our media, although we have a regulatory body like PEMRA to have a check on media but unfortunately it is totally government driven authority. If we gave the right of regulating the media to government it would cast us the freedom of speech. Media giants should themselves chalk a code of ethics and conduct for them to avoid the incidents of harassing people and declaring them as culprits. Internationally the media laws are very effective and strong and their media abide by them. Here in Pakistan we also have some media laws and PEMRA ordinance which to some extent prevent electronic media from jeopardizing the social values and public rights. The need is to create enough awareness among public that they can defend themselves against any exploitation. If we did not pay heed then we they will get into our bedrooms and would ask “Do you have the nikahnama”?