Media’s Shortfalls

Published in Dawn on the 18th of July, 2010.           

The fiasco created by the criticism of media in the Punjab Assembly and the consequent resolution passed by the House has taken the majority of the media and hence the country`s attention well over 48 hours.

I, being a sitting member of the Punjab Assembly, feel obligated to clarify a few things. Firstly, the discussion initiated by a fellow member`s speech was basically about one aspect of journalism, that being yellow journalism. The only meaningful criticism was towards the publication of `false` news or reports without investigating facts or trying to ascertain its truth value.

The general sense of the house was not to criticise the media for reporting news that was true, no matter how detrimental it might be to any of us.

Unfortunately and admittedly, some careless selection of words, emotional exaggeration in a few speeches and the generalised nature of the resolution did go beyond the above-mentioned ambit, still the spirit of the criticism was only on yellow journalism.

The media is an enormous industry today. There are more than 50 channels telecast in the country, hundreds of anchors, and thousands of reporters; does anyone propose to claim that there is not a single person in this industry whose ethical or professional norms are questionable?

If that is not the claim, then it was constructive criticism and the members of the House used the freedom of speech and expressed their opinions on the floor of the house. Secondly, the media was not criticised for publishing or reporting fake-degree cases. The majority of members do not believe that the coverage being given to fake degree cases is unjust, only as long as the reports are correct and true.

A person who has been dishonest to the Election Commission, his party and most importantly the public, does not deserve to seek pardon or concession. However, what about a member who has done no such thing but is still counted among the black sheep by our brothers in the media? Thirdly, it is not just about parliamentarians. If a false news report is published by a newspaper or run on a channel about a person, and in consequence the person suffers ridicule from his family, friends and society, it is just as wrong and worthy of criticism as any false report about an honourable member.

The media is undoubtedly playing a significant role in the birth of a true democracy in our country. The awareness it has brought to our masses is worthy of praise.
But if any element of the media is guilty of un-professionalism, the media as a whole should have the courtesy to accept it and rid itself of any such shortfall, and allow the same freedom of speech to any aggrieved person as is claimed and, to a large extent, enjoyed by the media.


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