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Media's gaping hole


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-Photo Illustration by Abro

Hussain Haqqani’s was definitely last week’s most watched media trial on prime time TV. Far from being done with him, this Thursday, the media found a new newsmaker in one Zainab Bibi. The woman ‘confessed’ to the police, under the camera glare, that she had indeed murdered her husband and then tried to cook his body parts just when the neighbours raised alarm and called in the cops. The reason for the brutal murder: he was a drunkard and used to beat up his wife and step daughter.

You might think that the most disgusting aspect of the uncanny show was the TV anchor interviewing her at the police station, and self-righteously grilling her to extract step-by-step gory details of the crime. But think again, for this is Pakistani media which does not know where to stop.

Cut to the studio, and the same anchor had on live calls a Mufti Sahab and a woman rights activist. The maulana hurriedly declared Zainab Bibi a liar and doubted her statement as to the motive of killing her husband; the rights activist condemned the murder and asked the maulana to also condemn in similar words the killer of Salmaan Taseer. This is where the anchor’s wish was granted and all hell broke loose.

The maulana categorically stated that Qadri in his love for the Prophet of Islam was overwhelmed by the blasphemy committed by the former governor, Punjab and killed him. It was a crime of passion, committed in the heat of the moment, which did not allow the murderer the time to think clearly. In the normal course, Qadri should have brought a blasphemy case against the governor.

This was too much to fathom for the rights activist and a two-way shouting match ensued. The maulana accused the rights activist of being westernised in her thinking; she in turn accused the maulana of being ill-mannered because of his bad upbringing. The anchor took a commercial break after failing to silence either of them.

A few questions of media and police ethics arise here: Why was the anchor allowed to interview the accused at length at the police station to prove her culpability beyond a doubt to his audience, who sat in jury on her? Why did the anchor give ready credence to Zainab’s confession? Why were a maulana and a rights activist selected to debate the issue? A murder had been committed, and neither the cleric nor the rights activist qualified as a criminologist or a sociologist.

Given the mudslinging that ensued between the two panelists who championed very different and unrelated causes to the crime that was committed, the show ratings must have gone through the roof, thus serving the cause of the channel and not of justice, much less of holding an intelligent debate.

The take-home for the audience: the self-confessed murderer wife shall burn in hell alongside the rights activist who, it seemed, was cornered into defending the ‘murderer’, citing high incidence of domestic violence in which mostly women are the victims. The maulana conveniently ‘established’ the non-credibility of the rights activist because most NGOs that play up violence against women in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan are funded by anti-Islam donors and manned by westernised Pakistanis who seek their guidance from the West and not the Quran and Sunnah. The maulana also ostensibly scored a high point by asking the rights activist to repent for what she had to say on Salmaan Taseer’s murder.

The missing gap — and a gaping hole it is — lies in the fact that Pakistan has 21st century information technology to showcase only medieval mindsets. Religion remains the prism through which everything and every issue must be seen for any validation.

A sorry state to be in, indeed.


The writer is a member of the staff at Dawn Newspaper.

The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

DAWN_VIDEO - /1029551/DAWN-RM-1x1

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

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Comments (17) Closed

Obaid Nov 25, 2011 05:29pm
I remained tense whole day due to the same story. I wish our journalists have some body to develop a code of ethics for them.
Mohamed Nov 25, 2011 05:42pm
This is indeed sad and constitutes mental imprisonment of an entire population. Look at other modern Islamic states. They prosper because thay have developed a healthy balance.
Rehana Batool Nov 25, 2011 05:52pm
I totally agree with the reflections of the writer about the irresponsible behaviour of the media which because of its concern for ratings only tends to focus on the coarser aspects of an issue rather than providng and intellectual perspective.
Agha Ata Nov 25, 2011 06:59pm
Nothing needs to be said after what Mr. Murtaza Razwi said, "...that Pakistan has 21st century information technology to showcase only medieval mindsets..." This, too, soon will pass, but sorry, not as soon as we would like it to.
Razzaq Nov 25, 2011 07:20pm
To me, Pakistani media has been playing a negative roll for years.The electronic media is so powerful in uneducated society that they could change the face of the nation and the country by paying positive roll.
ali Nov 25, 2011 11:50pm
I believe I saw the same anchor interviewing a child rapist in Police station. You can imagine the kind of question she would have asked him. I dont know why Police allow her to do this pretrial media show.
Mohammad A Dar Nov 26, 2011 03:40am
Writer may have forgotten, illegality is of medieval time, still alive today among criminals and Media has done nothing wrong to expose it in 21st century, with means available in 21st century.
Rajiv Kaushal Nov 26, 2011 09:39am
That only justified the script of "Bol"... seems the story was real...
Tahir M Nov 26, 2011 10:52am
Well written and spot on. Honestly, our media reporting is getting worse. TV news are being broadcast like excerpts from drama serials with flash photography news headlines, background wedding or filmi songs etc. What a sense of irresponsibility and immaturity. It is getting really bad but the public at large thinks it is good armchair viewing. Shame, Shame to our media.
Sarah Nov 26, 2011 12:13pm
This is the delima our media is facing. They discuss the most about responsibility but themselves know the real meaning of how to play a responsible role. Not just this program but daily we see 3 4 such molanas and muftis declaring someone guilty or innocent on the basis of their self created Islam. They are the ones creating most damage to Islam. The channels, programs and media persons must be held accountable for their such ridiculous acts. Why dont the authorities take any action against the mis-statements, mis-conducts and irresponsible acts of the media?
ZAFAR KHAN Nov 27, 2011 10:00am
Crimes are committed every where in the world and perhaps America is on top but they are not as much highlighted on media any where as are being done in Pakistan.Therefore the image of Pakistan goes as a wrong image to the world.Then the reporters or anchors who discuss such things on media are not only irresponsible but also lack knowledge and caliber of that sort and quality on the subjects.Nowadays each and every TV channel is airing programs on crimes.These programs are prepared like cinema films and presented with much shots of violence.Pakistan electronic media should grow up now.People don't like such programs.They are mistaken if they think it is people's demand.
Ali Nov 27, 2011 12:07pm
Bad news makes good press. No wonder TV is called " programming."
Zafar Nov 27, 2011 06:04pm
The anchors carry out the channel management's and owners's policies. The writer, I'm sure knows that but conveniently avoided that. I'm not defending the anchors. but the article is incomplete.
hanif khan Nov 27, 2011 07:21pm
they can not discuss any thing substantial, like army, bureaucracy, etc. so they get down to such gibberish.
Anand Nov 28, 2011 01:27am
Well said. However, the world needs to move on. With or without Pakistan.
Mustafa Nov 28, 2011 05:06am
Well written article by Murtaza Razvi. I strongly feel let us not blame the news media for publicizing evil news of Pakistan. It is a good move to open the eyes of Pakistanis and to persuade them to do something positive to improve conditions in Pakistan. You cannot be wrong and strong at the same time.
Sam'n Nov 28, 2011 05:50am
Great, well written, article! Media works for ratings and money in most countries, in the US news shows are more like entertainment talk shows so its no surprise that this kind of thing happens in Pakistan too. If only mainstream media could educate and empower the people of Pakistan.