Alternative information -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Alternative information

For now the Pakistani media are going through a competitive period of consolidation. Therefore, the news and views dissemination is not a very controlled discourse. However, once the consolidation is complete, only three or four media empires will survive.

Internet Media was Recognised as a major information dissemination outlet and political mobilization player when all eight Democratic Party presidential hopefuls joined the democratic bloggers’ Kos convention held in Chicago city. This is an antidote to the corporatisation of the media which is heavily manipulated by the US government and the clites.

Pakistan, where Internet use is still spotty, has a long way to go before it reaches this stage but Internet news and views portal are already impact­ing the enlightened readership in the country.

Eight democratic presidential candidates, who had refused to participate in arch conservative TV channel Fox’s discussion could not refuse the democratic bloggers’ convention because they know these entities raise tons of money and influence the base of the Democratic Party and young independent voters
The candidates had to come up with much more candid reactions with this convention’s par­ticipants and were booed and hissed when they for example, Hillary Clinton, the frontrunner among Democratic Party candidates was booed when she tried to justify receiving money from the lobbyists. On the contrary John Edward, candidate for vice president in 2004, was applauded when he declared that the US government needs overhaul­ing and not merely tinkering around the edges as suggested by other candidates.

The Kos Convention in Chicago was hosted by 15,000 internet democratic bloggers who are more to the left of traditionalist Democratic Party. The convention was named after the guru of the leftwing bloggers, Markos Moulitsas Zuniga, founder of Daily Kos. This movement emerged in response to the invasion of Iraq and President Bush’s regressive domestic policies.

The bloggers are individual internet activists that gather information and dissemi­nate it to the public. They can accommodate the news items or political opinions, not acceptable or endorsed by the mainstream print or electronic media, on their websites. They can also undertake political campaigns for cer­tain cause or candidates. Consequently, pro­gressive causes and candidates have benefited immensely from these bloggers: they have raised billion of dollars for various causes.

The US media, and for that matter most of the world media, have been taken over by corporations or wealthy individuals. Rupert Murdoch, the billionaire media mogul owns 170 newspapers, TV channels and Internet outlets. His latest acquisition has been the Wall Street Journal. He already owns New York Post and the Fox TV channel. In UK and Australia, he owns all major newspapers and TV outlets. Similarly, corporations or wealthy people also own the other media outlets. Therefore, the public gets filtered and tainted information from these sources.

For example, Rupert Murdoch employed all his media sources to sell the Iraq war. His influence was so pronounced that British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, called him four times before going to war in Iraq according to the recently published accounts of his secretary and personal confidant. Mr Murdoch was considered the 24th cab­inet member of Tony Blair’s cabinet.

Similarly, all other major newspapers and TV channels pushed for Iraq war because of the control of a limited group of wealthy people. Consequently, the common citizen’s voice, the basis on which the whole democratic system of government stands, has collapsed in the last few decades. The democratic system in the US and some other key industrialised countries has become a ‘government of the rich, by the rich for the rich.’

In reaction to such a suffocating stranglehold of the corporate media, motivated individuals started political websites, which were later called blogs. These bloggers showed their strength when they helped anti-war Howard Dean, presidential hopeful in 2004 elections outdo fund-raising by his rivals. Howard Dean blew his chances at a certain stage but it was proven that Internet bloggers can be real powerbrokers. Since then all local and national candidates have learned to live with them.

Pakistani media is not different from the US as for as the ownership of news outlets are concerned. Most influential newspapers, TV, and radio channels are owned by a handful of individuals. It means that a few individuals can set the tone and agenda on every local and foreign issue. The state can also control or manipulate these individuals very easily. Therefore, the news, views and general information is at the mercy of a few vulnerable individuals.

For now the Pakistani media are going through a competitive period of consolidation. Therefore, the news and views dissemination is not a very controlled discourse. However, once the consolidation is complete, only three or four media empires will survive. Then, the information will be highly filtered and controlled. Unfortunately, Pakistan’s legislative bodies and state media authorities are clueless about this issue and the media evolution may be headed in the wrong direction.

And there are, so far, very few Pakistani Internet bloggers and online news and views portals. A few minority language and cultural media outlets like wichaar.com and apnaorg.com in Punjabi are drawing traffic but other bloggers are very tiny. However, the way some organisations like Asian-American Network Against Abuse of Human Rights (ANNA) and Association of Pakistani Physicians in North America (APPNA) are establishing their presence on the Internet may make a difference. As the use of Internet increases Pakistani bloggers will become a real political force.

The writer can be reached at
manzurejaz@yahoo.com
Source: The Nation
Date:8/8/2007