KARACHI: Speakers at the two Sindh Literature Festival (SLF) sessions on the print and electronic media of Pakistan on Saturday questioned ‘adulteration’ of news stories with a pack of lies and criticised the TV channels for engaging in a rat race for ratings by disseminating unhealthy information to their viewers.

Sultana Siddiqui, president of Hum TV Network, spoke to Najia Mir on the impact of visual media on the society. She accused the contemporary channels of introducing unhealthy trends. She said following good ethics and picking fresh topics would earn the TV channels better ratings as well, instead of going for sensationalising the society.

“I don’t go for ratings,” said Ms Siddiqui, a known producer from the golden PTV era. “Take a subject and then make it so entertaining that it conveys and convinces the audience.

“Anything without a good message is anything but news or entertainment,” said Ms Siddiqui.

She said the message in a drama or a news package should be healthy, entertaining and without creating confusion. She said the media was so powerful that it could make or alter the people’s minds. “We can cause harm to a healthy mind and we are also capable of healing a diseased mindset.”

She said bitter truths could be told with appropriate precision. “Make it sugar-coated; here sugar is entertainment that keeps the audience engaged and they receive what you want to tell them.

“Take the food channels. How radically they have changed the minds. The people now aspire to become chefs, which they could never dream before. Chefs earn much more than many other professionals.”

She said visual media could make or break anything. But in Pakistan it was inclined more towards negative tendencies, she regretted.

“Qandeel Baloch was killed because of negative and highly improper publicity she was accorded with. Why you [media] humiliate Meera’s English accent?”

She said the visual media did not know about the soft image, which it could help the country to have. “It is not wrong to discuss social problems on the media, but don’t make them sensational.”

She said she was not against foreign content, but it was better to respect “our own content”.

In another session, journalist Wusatullah Khan said a news story was like any other product, which had to be good and harmless for the consumer. “Like any other buyer,” he said, “a reader purchases a newspaper as a product for the purpose of being better informed.

“Then why the readers are condemned to be exposed to adulterated news?” he questioned.

He said there were ‘selfie journalists’ who just thought about themselves and knew no one better.

“A selfie journalist is one who thinks he embodies everything called knowledge. He sees everything but him and deems everything else as the backdrop or simply the part of nothingness.” He said such journalists had little value for facts, because they “put their flags in the frame of their own selves”.

Several sessions on a variety of subjects were held on the second day of the festival. They encompassed the topics of languages in a global world, literary and intellectual tendencies of contemporary Sindhi literature and other languages, qualitative higher education and universities, fine arts, and a session on post-partition criticism in Sindhi literature.

Darawar Dil Ji Tanhai, a book by the late poet Ayaz Jani, was also launched on the occasion.

Published in Dawn November 6th, 2016