Maya Khan’s ‘chasing-couples parks’ episode that aired last week caused quite a stir in Pakistan and even received coverage abroad. However, it was a series called “Where is your daughter?” that aired in October on the same show and channel, that is truly disturbing.
In this particular episode aired on October 5th of last year, the recipe for “Beti ka Achar” (pickled daughter) with ingredients that will create the perfect obedient daughter or daughter-in-law is given in grueling detail.
The ingredients include one daughter, a fist-full of trust, a pinch of ‘anger’ salt, a tablespoon of crushed ‘question’ pepper, and a spoon of good breeding ‘essence’. The narrator of the recipe recommends that you keep the mixture in a corner of the house where there is shade and no sunlight; otherwise she warns the mixture might go bad.
There is something especially sinister about educated women who were born into liberated and privileged families in Pakistan advocating this nonsense on live TV. Do they believe that only they are God’s chosen few who have the right to be independent and work?
But this wasn’t the only ridiculous, insulting and chauvinistic recipe aired on her show, two days later they ran another recipe for “Beti ki Curry”.
Along with the first unappetising achar recipe, they also ran a report in which a girl named Misbah is accused of killing her father with her boyfriend. In the report a police officer alleges that Misbah was being ‘treated indecently by her father’ and the reporter goes on to say that Misbah says her father ‘used to make her do things to him.’ I don’t know about you, but to me that sounds like accusations of sexual assault. But instead of investigating further, the Maya brigade ignore this detail and focus on the ‘rebellious’ girl killing her father with her boyfriend.
Maya Brigade Background
Maya Khan’s parks episode aired on January 17th, started making the social media rounds on Jan 21st. Within 12 hours, the video went viral and was addressed in op-ed’s and blogs on mainstream media (Dawn, BBC Urdu). Thousands signed an online petition and letters were sent to Samaa’s chairman.
As someone from inside the industry, I say rather guiltily that I have seen many things go on air that should have never made the light of day. I have also rarely seen a news channel willing to apologise for its misconduct or misstep. So Samaa’s apology is a brave and welcome change.
But, I also believe that if the ‘parks’ video didn’t go viral, we would not have built enough pressure through social media to make Samaa take notice and issue an apology. Samaa will surely scrutinise all of Maya’s shows in the future.
Imagine if the “Beti Ka Achar” video went viral in October, maybe the parks episode wouldn’t have happened.
Beyond Maya Brigade
What I am getting at is Maya Khan is a symptom of a larger problem, where our news channels are a slave to ratings rather than an ethical guideline or code of conduct.
The problem with these morning shows, not just Samaa, is that they bring in a lot of revenue through advertising. Many news channels run their operations off the money they make in these shows, but the show often operates in “no man’s land”, with little or no editorial oversight and accountability from the newsroom. (As an example the Maya Khan episodes with the “Betiki Curry” recipe (04:05-04:20) and the “Beti ka Achar” recipe (05:16-05:24), both run with disclaimers saying the content of the show does not necessarily represent Samaa’s views.)
That is simply not on, if the show is airing on a news channel, and that is what Samaa is registered with PEMRA as, they have to be held responsible for all content.
My appeal is that we cannot lose steam with the parks episode. We have to continue to build pressure, for all news channels to realise that they cannot afford to sacrifice ethical standards for ratings and money.
Furthermore, now the New York Times is reporting that ‘four local non-government organisations (are filing) a civil suit against Samaa TV in Pakistan’s Supreme Court, hoping to galvanise the country’s top judges into action.’