Our media is in an uproar these days, divided along the lines of “what is ethical” Its one channel against the rest of them and the point of contention is Geo’s coverage after the Hamid Mir attack.
I was among the first to question the modus operandi being exercised on air, as in my personal opinion it was completely contrary to what our constitution allows broad cast media to do. In fact I will go as far as to say I have never ever witnessed this kind of aggressive finger pointing at the head of its own countries intelligence agency by any Tv channel anywhere. This list includes stations, which are far right and left and exist everywhere in the world. Having said that the “why” this happened is a matter of conjecture everyone seems to be engaging in rather then focusing on what we know.
For instance we know that Hamid mir before his attack had indeed referred to or implied in some manner to those close to him that he was being threatened by deep state. A fact that is established by his brother reading out his statement after the attack here on video. However in the same statement “non state actors” are also mentioned which everyone has seemingly forgotten about with which a recent ceasefire just ended.
We also know that one persons opinion whether it is a senior journalist or a laymen cannot and should not translate into a smear campaign on a state institution. Which is what the hours long segment of the broadcast will be called (sans proof) for a media house the size of Jang group. I am saying this because there are levels of editorial control in place in any media organisation so to think that this hours long diatribe happened “inadvertently” is a joke.
We are also aware of information stated on 14th august 2013 in a column in the business recorder by Inam Kahawaja and I quote
In October 1999 when Musharraf usurped power by a coup d’ etat Pakistan had a single TV network PTV and a few private channels. In 2002 Musharraf permitted private channels to operate and even broadcast their own news and current affairs content and in his superior wisdom even permitted foreign ownership in the name of freedom of expression!!
As a result of this disastrous blunder today several TV channels are almost fully or partially foreign owned. No one can deny that the policy of the media reflects the interests of its owners.
The Jung/New Group set up The Independent Media Corporation. The ownership of this media group is reported on the internet to include; Anil Ambani (of India), an American Group and the Mir Shakilur Rehman family. One wonders why the Jung does not contradict this internet report.
( The above has yet to be challenged in a court of law either)
So I think the question here is not “why” Geo ranted against our security agencies. It may have been out of complete panic or a desire to speak what they thought was the truth. The question is what PEMRA is going to do about it. There are large sections of the public and media crying out to ban a fellow member of the media fraternity which is quite shocking to say the least as the masks are indeed now off. However we cannot as a country let such a “diatribe” go without penalising the organisation responsible either, for these kind of accusations made by Geo are not I think under the premises of Freedom of Press or right to speech. The penalty for this act though should be decided in the courts under the supervision of PEMRA and then the decision carried out to its letter. If we hold Geo responsible for jumping the gun on an accusation sans proof are we not doing the same to it when we accuse Geo of involvement in some kind information attack orchestrated from India? Remember the ownership alluded to in the above excerpt from the column also says that such ownership is completely legal under Pakistani laws. However the “influence” of such an ownership not bearing well for the country in the long run is a separate debate altogether, made more comical by the fact that it is the army’s former leader himself who made such foreign ownership a possibility.
The only thing positive for me coming out of this whole mess has been a unity shown in the country behind its armed forces, something of a nationalistic mindset emerging from what has normally been a production line of criticism for our soldiers which contrary to many people think is not exactly the same kind of a profession as an accountant. In this fervour though we should not forget that neither the army nor the media are holy cows which cannot be questioned or held an opinion against. The extent of that opinion or trying to turn that opinion into some sort of campaign in public has completely different implications to holding one personally though. Which is where we need to draw the line and enforce it.
As to how a toothless PEMRA will enforce such a line still remains to be seen.