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It's not just Maya…

Updated March 20, 2012

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While all seems to have been said and done on the Maya Khan episode and social media has won much praise for assuming the role of the chief pressure group in this case, amidst the frenzy what has escaped scrutiny is that the program’s episode was by and large representative of how our society tends to deal with individual freedoms.

And although Khan is not defending her position, she genuinely and thoroughly seems to think that the approach of the episode was not entirely either objectionable or wrong. But even that’s not the problem. The problem is that her point of view is not exactly rare. While there may be people who have denounced the program’s ‘terminator’ approach, they may not necessarily have a problem with the lack of respect for individual freedom — the idea that clearly was the driving force of the episode.

Also, the fact that the men and women who were being filmed for ridicule on the episode could not bear to be seen on television in that setting, shows how endangered their own personal freedom is — whether the assault comes from a charged up anchorperson with a team out for a witch-hunt or from other people who may be in a stronger position to cause harm.

Still fighting the attacks on individual freedoms that have been made from various quarters — be it successive dictatorial regimes, the self-appointed moral policing types [such as Lal Masjid types] or the society at large experiencing and embracing a radicalised worldview, one hardly needed the media to join this clubbers’ club. But let us make no mistake, this was not the first time somebody crossed the line. The line has been crossed every now and then and to different extents, except that this time the reaction became overwhelming enough to force a response from the management of the network which, regardless of firing the program’s team, is ultimately responsible for what went on air that morning.

This brings us to the question of what is the objective of programming and the kind of judgment exercised in hiring the people to execute it. Sacking a team may be easier and necessary when everyone’s clamouring for action, but things would probably not have reached this point had responsible hiring been done for important positions in the first place.

Media houses need to realise that firing a team after public uproar is not the solution – responsible and prudent hiring, coupled with a progressive and balanced approach to programming is how this issue can be tackled best. The problem is bigger than Maya Khan and the invasion of privacy. The problem is the school of thought that makes many feel that this is okay – and to target that warped mindset, a biased and controversial media is hardly a solution.

How do you, as an average viewer perceive the whole incident? Was Maya right? Is this problem bigger than just Maya Khan? Can such an invasion of privacy actually be justified and how can media houses adopt a more ethical and balanced approach towards programming?

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Qurat ul ain Siddiqui is the News Editor at Dawn.com