Media and implementation of NAP
Though consensus on the National Action Plan captured time and space in media but its implementation did not attract the media enthusiasm.
Pakistani media primarily covered 20 points of the NAP in news sections; however on opinion pages and talk shows, the NAP did not get the due space and time. Hence media primarily remained restricted to its information function thus compromised its educational function.
One of the universal functions of media is public education. Without active media persuasion public participation in counter terrorism initiatives will remain a far cry. Media needs to educate its audience about the importance of public volunteerism, de-weaponisation and de-radicalisation.
Regarding implementation of the NAP, a defined role of Pakistani media seems a missing link. Media should apprise the public regarding the essence of the NAP, hurdles and success attained in its implementation.
Since the NAP pertains to internal security; therefore employment of techniques of development communication are inevitable. Such media strategy will create conducive environment for the engagement of the stakeholders and policy makers. By employing development communication, media will facilitate dissemination of information, education, behavioural change and community participation.
Terrorist and extremist organisations always remained possessive about their image building plans. Savages know that psychological warfare is more important than the physical war. Once, al Zawahiri expressed that “more than half of the ongoing battle is taking place in the battlefield of the media.” They know that media coverage can provide oxygen; hence their least priority is to remain alive in the media.
Though mass media can create global impact but our media planners failed to glorify the sacrifices made by the innocent Pakistanis. After incidents of terrorism claiming responsibility through mass media assumed an established norm. With such tact savages apprise the public about their achievements and augment their bargaining capabilities.
Reporting of implementation of the NAP is primarily statistical; hence analytical aspect is missing. Apart from mass media, traditional and social media are also to be employed to the optimum level.
Journalists covering conflict areas need to be sensitised regarding the thin line between freedom of press and national interests. To bring media owners, representative bodies of working journalists, press clubs and academic institutions imparting education of journalism into a loop is investable. To attain this objective ministries of information and interior, NACTA and PEMRA should take the leading roles.
From 20 points of the NAP, media may have developed countless news stories. But owing to capacity issues, our media still seems averse in depth analysis of such issues. For instance de-radicalisation and de-weaponisation did not seem the part of the media agenda. Ongoing phase of extremism warrants placement of the NAP in the top priorities of media.
Media shall dedicatedly identify the hurdles being confronted in the implementation and also appraise the masses regarding performance of the federating units in its implementation.
In post 9/11 scenario, Pakistani media experienced interaction with non-state actors. While publishing ‘scoop’, media often compromising sensitivities attached with information shared by non state actors. Hence media should learn how to attain balance between interests of the state and coverage of non-state actors. Live coverage of the incidents of terrorism also requires special care. Such coverage shall not compromise the security of the law enforcement personnel.
In implementation of the NAP, the regulatory role of the PEMRA shall be assertive. The PEMRA should motivate the TV channels regarding the expected social responsibilities to be performed by the media. Through public service messages, the communities are to be educated. Empowerment of communities will enable the communities to voluntarily contribute in counter terrorism initiatives. Further, media should desist from excessive coverage of violence and terrorism.
In Pakistan, private electronic media and contemporary terrorism are the post 9/11 developments. Since 9/11, our private TV channels have maximum focus on terrorism hence compromised positive virtues of mass media. Therefore, Pakistani viewers are yet to attain benefits from the positive impact of mass media.
Without inclusiveness of media, the impact of the counter terrorism initiatives cannot be felt. The realisation of the importance of media persuaded the US military to opt for “embedded journalism.” Though embedded journalism negates the very essence of objectivity but they employed it on pretext of furthering national security agenda.
In the beginning of the US invasion of Iraq, 775 reporters and photographers accompanied the US forces as embedded journalists.
At the cost of blood of 60,000 Pakistanis, we shielded the world from the wrath of savages but international media still depicts us as extremists. Therefore, media should produce documentaries of sacrifices and destruction incurred by Pakistanis.
A narrative in the light of our changed strategy needs to be tailored by media groups. Talk shows, documentaries, films and dramas are to be produced in the context of agreed upon narrative. On the issue of terrorism media needs not to be competitive but rather patriotic. Media may earn more dividends from development and peace than persistently flashing the hard news of terrorism.
Media shall educate the parents about the value of education, parents-teachers meetings, dropout rate, how the extremists hunt the talent, where they are being trained and how we can save our children from such influences.
Banning glorification of terrorism by media should be another priority. Media shall desist from providing oxygen to the terrorists. Ideally speaking media should opt for self-regulation and voluntarily follow the self-tailored code of ethics.
Regarding achievements and hurdles being confronted in the implementation of the NAP periodic media briefings are to be regularly ensured. To share broader perspective of the NAP government should have close liaison with owners and editors of print and electronic media.
Though in competitive environment the news of non-state actors cannot be completely killed; however exaggerated version shall be avoided. In our situation information related to terrorism and extremism is not to be solely evaluated on the basis of journalistic values but rather be also assessed in national security perspective. During interaction with editors and owners the government is suggested to apprise them regarding redefined orbit of national interests. Media should realise that national security interests are not static but rather change with the internal, regional and international variations. Hence media should not be too possessive or rigid but rather be adaptable and flexible in the changed scenario.
Someone needs to persuade media that freedom of media is the partial ingredient of the broader orbit of national security.