Media and feudalism
By Farhan Reza
The Punjab Assembly’s resolution against the media proved, once again, that a predominantly feudal and tribal society and press freedom are not compatible. Despite the democratic trappings of the political leadership, the fact remains that its members have inherited dictatorial tendencies because of their feudal upbringing.
Therefore, there have been many instances of governments run by “democratic” political parties acting like dictatorial regimes. During the first tenure of the People’s Party certain members of the media were considered anti-government, and treated as such. In the PML-N’s first tenure the office of a magazine was raided and damaged by the law enforcement agencies after it published stories against the home minister of Sindh at that time. During its second tenure in government, the PPP closed down six evening newspapers because they had been publishing stories about the police operation then underway in Karachi. The PML-N during its second tenure victimised, through the National Accountability Bureau, newspapers criticising Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
In the two years that it has been in power, the present PPP government has acted no differently.
The Punjab Assembly was quick to pass a bill when the media highlighted the fact that many parliamentarians possess fake degree. If a parliamentarian cannot be criticised for having a fake degree, how can civil society protest against, say, doctors with fake degrees? Parties with fascist tendencies having effective pressure groups use street power to silence criticism. Many journalists had to leave the country or faced torture or were put under various pressures after writing against certain political and religious groups. Therefore, journalists and writers carry out self-censorship in commenting on the actions of certain political or religious groups.
Political parties support press freedom only when their opponents are victims of criticism. In their public speeches their leaders and officials repeatedly demand press freedom, but just so long as they are out of power. Once in power, these same leaders present “democracy” and “national interest” being under threat when their own governments are under scrutiny.
It goes without saying that the news media also needs to put itself under scrutiny, especially in terms of quality. One result of its rapid growth during the past decade has been the entry of many anchors without journalistic background popping up on the television screen, and taking strong positions on political issues without regard to editorial and journalistic ethics. In many cases, the editorial staff becomes secondary in a programme as the anchor or host starts predetermining the direction of a discussion. Glamour, in some cases, takes precedence over journalistic conduct.
But people often get to have the final say in the media. In many cases people’s disapproval of a programme is reflected in the decline in its ratings. Column-writers then get lesser feedback. This has had the positive effect of anchors and column writers being forced to review their work and methods.
Democracy and liberal thought are in a more pronounced clash with feudal and rightwing orthodoxy these days. Political and social activism can no longer be ignored now. Countries and political leadership cannot emerge from such phases through imposition of restrictive laws and regulations. The situation can only be resolved through a proactive attitude on the issues faced by Pakistani society. A quicker response for redress of the public’s problems can only make the system run more smoothly and strengthen people’s confidence in the democratic system. And in the long run change in economic dimension, like guiding the country out of the feudal and tribal system to an industrial system, will ensure a more democratic and more civilised society. This is the lesson of history and this is the law of progress.
The writer is a journalist based in Karachi. Email: farhanreza @gmail.com
Source: The News