An embedded media
By: Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur
A cynical, mercenary, demagogic press is an invaluable asset for a state that is hell bent on ensuring that its ideology is accepted as the supreme truth
Some newspapers (not Daily Times) tried to present the FC-managed and orchestrated August 14 celebrations in Quetta as spontaneous and fervent, but the irony that most events including the flag hoisting by Chief Minister Raisani was FC-organised was totally lost on them; they also forgot the cellular services suspension, a repeat of the March 23 exercise. This purposeful misreporting simply dupes people into believing that only some troublemakers are responsible for the situation in Balochistan and thus creates an atmosphere conducive for continuing excesses against the Baloch struggling for their rights. Joseph Pulitzer’s quote, “A cynical, mercenary, demagogic press will produce in time a people as base as itself,” rings true here.
The avaricious, pusillanimous and mendacious press (media) has helped the people become apathetic and servile to the wishes of the ‘establishment’ and its ‘national security state’ ideology. The revenue-obsessed media, instead of dealing with human rights issues, gives 24/7 coverage to frivolous and trivial matters. Media has always vigorously projected the ‘security state’ ideals without questioning the adverse effects of this policy.
It is only to the credit of some columnists and newspapers that have persisted in exposing the charade that is carried out in the name of Islam and ‘national integrity’.
People often trip up answering the trick question, “Which was the biggest island before Australia was discovered?” This only illustrates that reality does not change even if it does not become public knowledge. Bluntly put, just because people do not know that excesses are being committed or operations being conducted in Balochistan, it does not mean that these are not happening there. The ‘establishments’ everywhere have always depended on the premise that if information is blacked out it should be assumed that something has never happened or is not happening. They have often succeeded with the help of cynical, mercenary media, but that certainly does not minimise the gravity of their crimes and atrocities.
The media’s role in exposing atrocities cannot be downplayed. The M? Lai Massacre of nearly 500 unarmed South Vietnamese civilians including women, children and elderly people, took place on March 16, 1968 by United States Army soldiers of Charlie Company of the 1st Battalion during the Vietnam War. It would have gone unnoticed but for The Independent’s investigative journalist Seymour Hersh, who broke the M? Lai story on November 12, 1969, though sadly the perpetrators went unpunished. This exposure was possible because he did not face any threat to his life for doing so. Here all those who have dared to tread on sensitive paths have been eliminated.
Journalists and media in Balochistan have strived to live up to their ideals and have paid a heavy price; in the last four years, 22 journalists have been killed. Moreover, a couple of years ago, the Daily Asaap was forced to shut down after paramilitary forces took over its offices. The offices of Daily Balochistan Express and Daily Azadi were also occupied by the paramilitary forces for criticising government policies. Websites of newspapers have been proscribed. The other equally effective method is the FC chief and the chief minister accusing media of spreading lies and maligning their good name and governance. It effectively curbs the enthusiasm of journalists because after verbal warnings come physical intimidation and elimination. Recently, Jalil Sarbazi, brother of Vsh TV anchorperson Razaak Sarbazi, and his friend Abdul Saboor, were kidnapped. There is a relentless state effort to curb the freedom of the media in Balochistan.
That being the situation, reports or investigations of what the army, the FC or their henchmen do is very limited. The suppressed media, unlike social media, also hesitates to report any unusual activity of the air force or military that would indicate and expose the operations being conducted in Balochistan. As it is, Dera Bugti, Marri area, and some areas in Makran are out of bounds to journalists and the real extent of military involvement and excesses remain unreported.
The intimidation of journalists and the curbs on media and free information in Balochistan is certainly not random but has a sinister motive of depriving people of factual information and with it of hope. Not a single person has been charged with the murders of the 22 journalists who were merely doing their jobs. The constant threat of death hanging over the head of media persons in Balochistan is aimed at physically restraining the free flow of information. A press (media) which does not submit to the will and ideology of the state will remain under threat while a cynical, mercenary, demagogic press that helps produce a people as base as itself is allowed to thrive.
An embedded media is the greatest threat to the liberties and rights of people because it assists the state in creating a xenophobic and sectarian atmosphere, which continuously marginalises the rights and freedoms of those who are not in consonance with warped state ideologies. The rights and freedom of the Baloch and Sindhis now, like the Bengalis before them and those of religious minorities here have been encroached upon by the ‘national security state’ with the connivance of the media, which is guilty of selling off morality and truth for the sake of increased revenues. The Supreme Court, which at present is engrossed with the issue of vulgarity in the media, does not understand that the flouting of the right of people to information is more obscene than any saucy ad in media can be, but then you have to be alive to violations of the rights of people to understand this. A cynical, mercenary, demagogic press is an invaluable asset for a state that is hell bent on ensuring that its ideology is accepted as the supreme truth.
The Pakistani media has not only not fulfilled its moral responsibility of standing up for the rights of ethnic or religious minorities but in many instances has encouraged the excesses against them. The social media is trying to fill the vacuum created by the subservient media but it lacks the credibility and impact that mainstream media enjoys. Social media will become truly powerful when the activists observe the basic rules of truthfulness and investigation. Social media is a thorn in the side of the state but it has to meet a higher criterion to become a dagger that could kill the lies and imposed curbs on the media. It is essential that activists using social media be aware of the pitfalls of incorrect reporting. Credibility should never be compromised for the sake of convenience.