To see how someone will react to a certain situation, is it fair to create that situation first – or wait it out until it happens naturally? This could be debated upon but certain factions of media seem to have already made up their minds about this. We have seen this very clearly in Indian news channels and now also in Pakistan and a few other South Asian countries – create situations and hope for a response controversial enough to be 9 pm’s Breaking News.
Media personnel, often hungry to be known as ‘investigative journalists’ seem to forget that the purpose of investigation is to investigate and expose crimes which have either taken place already or are in the process of taking place. Our impulsive and confused-about-ethics journalists instead think it is okay to set-up a scene and then provoke someone to commit a mistake and then claim, ‘Aha! I knew it! File the story; we have some great scoop coming up.’
As Saba Naqvi points out in an article on Outlook India.com: Do our numbed senses now need something really salacious for us to sit up and take notice? In our desire for a TV fix do we really care about the ethics of taping or tapping someone? Who cares about farmers who routinely commit suicide. Bring on the sleaze and sex, the riveting images of shifty-eyed men taking bribes or actors being caught propositioning women!
Naqvi’s questions do not apply to India alone, for Pakistan itself is embroiled in this deep state of confusion where sting operations are being carried out for the sake of ‘public interest’. And having very little knowledge ourselves on what is right and what is wrong, it is safe to say that yes, the public is interested – but are these ‘revelations’ doing us any good? Are we even benefiting from these ‘shockers’?
Let’s take an Indian Channel’s example from last night. The private channel aired a video and published a report on its website, claiming to have carried out a sting operation revealing the involvement of umpires from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka in match-fixing. The ICC has called for evidence and further development is yet to be seen. However, if the evidence does go against these specific umpires then viewers will expect the relevant course of action to be taken against them but until then, I need to understand how is this pertaining to public interest?
The only thing here that seems to interest the public is: - Why were Indian umpires not in the list? - Why wait a few months to reveal this video? - Is it safe to say that India’s disappointment on losing the WT20 has diminished just because a feel-good-about-ourselves distraction is airing on their TV channels? - How much more explosive would this have been if Pakistan or Sri Lanka would have won the World T20?
I have read dozens and dozens of comments from Indians and Pakistanis on Dawn.com’s article on this matter and the above mentioned questions are the only thing they seem to be pinching each other about. What no reader seems to be wondering is, could this act have not been called entrapment? Or any similar act for that matter (carried out in EITHER of our countries). If not contacted by these “investigative journalists” would the “accused” have even faced such a situation in his career?
When it comes to sting operations and cricket, media houses know regardless of the outcome, an exposé on cricket will almost always equate to a success with the viewers. Our obsessive nationalist attachment to the sport makes it impossible for us to accept a defeat as a defeat. Be it Hafeez or be it Dhoni, today they are our heroes, tomorrow we will not just criticize them for a loss but almost demonize them. Come up with a million and one justifications on why they should be sacked or completely banished from the sport.
Leaving aside snide comments about match fixing, doesn’t every team enter a tournament with the intention to win? Then why is it that defeat often leads our media into become the instigators of angry tirade against our team.
Like I said earlier, this doesn’t necessarily apply to cricket in South Asia, the peeping-tom syndrome has swept over in various aspects of our life – but is that okay?
Editors who allow their ‘investigative team’ have a duty to ensure that their reporter does not have any external motivation for carrying out a specific operation.
An independent blogger asks his audience a very important question when it comes to sting operations: Is (the sting operation) it merely going to test the moral fabric of a person? How many normal honest people will be able to resist the temptation of risk-free money thrown at them or a good-looking girl knocking at their doors voluntarily?
Corruption needs to be exposed, be it cricket or politics, but one wonders, does it need to be manufactured?
Shyema Sajjad is a former Dawn staffer.
She tweets @ShyemaSajjad
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.