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Past Present: At liberty

June 16, 2012

An interesting misconception among print journalists and TV anchors is that the Pakistani media is free and therefore propagating a change in society.

Without doubt, the media is presently exposing crime and corruption in society. We get our daily dose of how suspects are tortured in police stations and in case they die, their bodies are handed over to the families without any guilt or remorse.

There are news of bomb explosions in Imam Bargahs, shrines and mosques killing hundreds of devotees and worshippers. News about violence and aggression has become a regular feature and people are neither shocked nor sensationalised after reading or watching gory details. These events are routine news items for people who have consequently become desensitised.

The prompt information and gruesome details of violent incidents hardly prevent these occurrences and everything continues unabated. The media may inform us about violence but fails to create any political and social consciousness.

Communal riots have become a norm while corruption is unchecked at all levels. Considering this situation, society cannot be changed or reformed by mere dissemination of information, sermons and exhortation but can only be transformed by changing its basic structure and eliminating the difference between the privileged and the ‘have-nots’.

Maintaining status quo and hoping to bring a change in state structure and its institution is nothing but a delusion. The root cause of the problem is the perceived ideology of the state which excludes religious minorities from the mainstream of society. In a religious state, conflicts among religious sects sharpen so much that each sect declares the other as heretic leading to violent clashes to eliminate or weaken the rival sect.

Another major issue of the Pakistani society is the absence of the rule of law. There is   no protection of the weaker sections of society against oppression and exploitation by the rich and powerful classes. The feudals and bureaucrats being powerful treat the law with contempt and take pride in its violation to assert their superiority. As long as the state and society remain unchanged, unaccountable violence and killing will continue.

Being part of the society, the Pakistani media reflects the same values and psyche and follows two main trends; religious and political. Even advertisements are based on these two trends in order to address the emotions of viewers and readers. The tragedy being that every Pakistani tries to prove that he is an orthodox Muslim and a patriotic Pakistani. Religious channels devote almost all of their programming to preach and cure all disease in the society through spiritual means. Therefore, it would not be wrong to say that technology in a backward society would only take it further back in time. Hence some sections of the print and electronic media are responsible for pushing society towards medieval times instead of moving it forward.

That the Pakistani media is free is just a myth. It is evident that the owners and proprietors of the print and electronic media have their own agenda and vested interests to fulfill. Therefore, they are free to remain within certain limits and not cross forbidden boundaries.

By representing the rich and influential sections of society, the media strengthens status quo and hence it is a folly to expect that the media would raise a voice against outdated traditions and obsolete values. It avoids promoting new and radical ideas or views which conflict with the Pakistani ideology. Their internal censorship policies twist discussions, conversation and interviews and produce ideas that inculcate narrow-mindedness and prejudice among people.

The internet on the other hand provides space to those who have something new and radical to say, an opportunity denied by the media. Therefore one can find lively debates and discussions among different groups who can freely express their views through blogs and websites.

As a result the young generation is more attracted towards the internet as compared to newspapers and television as this alternative medium is more powerful and free from all restrictions and censorship.