By Mansoor Ali Khan.
Media has always been an essential tool to build or reshape the public opinion. It is also known as ‘mirror of society’. Being a journalist or media person has never been an easy job. They say, “Journalism is not just a job, it is a passion”. A passion which makes journalists enable to enter in war zones; conflict hit areas, challenge the ruling elite and even state institutions. Sometimes Journalists work day and night to gather information and present it in a written or spoken form in news stories, feature articles or documentaries.
Neutrality in journalism has been a long-standing debate. Many emphasize that a journalist should always be neutral, and when it comes to neutrality in journalism, naturally it does not mean that journalists lack the capacity to have their own opinions. In the words of Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel, authors of The Elements of Journalism, “The method is objective, not the journalist.” It means a journalist could have his opinion on certain issues. But should journalists be a party or take sides?
In Pakistan, media has never been completely independent. It has always been influenced by the powerful ruling elite. But that is not the debate here. There is another important question which is mostly ignored, and that is “Is Pakistani Media Neutral?” The Answer is perhaps No..!
It seems as if Pakistani media has lost its neutrality. Media in Pakistan seems to have divided into many sections. Prominent journalists across the country have adopted a ‘populist approach’. They lecture us all on patriotism, morality and ethics. Most of those Journalists are not known for their professional achievements, rather they are known by their party or institutional affiliations.
Like political parties, a section of Pakistani media is known for its Pro-Government and Anti-Establishment approach, whereas, the other section hasn’t let go any opportunity to bash the ruling party and portray the other side as a bunch of Angels. One section of the media has enforced a complete news blackout on Corruption in military institutions & their interference in politics, Strategic failures, Okara farms incidents etc. The other section looks reluctant in showing anything which they think would go against the interests of the ruling party. This ‘Pro and Anti’ approach has not only polarized the society but has also confused the masses.
The confusion has grown further in the vague of Panama leaks, where one section of media will portray the ruling party PML N as ‘devil’, and anyone, whose views somehow go in its favor, is regarded as ‘Devil’s Advocate’. Judgments have been passed on ‘illegality’ of offshore companies and resignation of the PM has been demanded.
The other section however seems busy in portraying PM Nawaz Sharif as an ‘innocent sparrow’. That could perhaps be the reason for putting a minor clarification by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) as main headline of:
“Nawaz’s name mistakenly appears in news on Panama Papers: ICIJ
The above headline, however caused uproar among the other section and it went on to pass an immediate judgment as:
Did not take out PM’s name from Panama papers nor issued an apology: ICIJ clarifies
However, the truth lies somewhere in between.
Like anything, media needs time to evolve. Journalists learn from their experience and mistakes. Their main goal should only be to ensure the right of citizens, which may allow them to form adequate impression about the actual information. A journalist following the populist approach is not a popular journalist at all. A journalist is known only by his professional achievements and avoids becoming a victim of a collision of real or hidden interests.
Writer is a Current Affairs Producer with a News Channel based in Islamabad. He can be reached at;