Media, democracy stand trial in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Media, democracy stand trial in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

By Iqbal Khattak

PESHAWAR: The media and democracy both stand trial in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa for unethical reporting and on corruption charges.

First journalists covering parliamentary proceedings of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly staged a walkout to protest snail pace probe into life attempt on a senior TV journalist Hazrat Khan Mohmand and then the government benches blasted the channel for “spearheading propaganda” against the government’s spokesman — Mian Iftikhar Hussain.

The government’s spokesman tabled a privilege motion in the assembly on Friday against a Pashto-language TV channel following the serving of “legal notice” on the channel’s management for what he called “corruption campaign” against him in particular.

Among the charges against the TV also includes element of “blackmailing” which he preferred to be spelled out when the matter comes before the privilege committee of the assembly. When the hearing of Mian Iftikhar’s privilege motion starts it will certainly interest journalists who want to know how the channel will defend its accusations against the minister who swears to God that he personally was not involved in any corrupt practices.

If we go by rules, the meetings of any standing committee of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa House are not open to public participation, according to Deputy Speaker Khushdil Khan.

However, with the committee chairman’s willingness the media can cover the meeting. Let’s hope the media is not barred from covering the important hearing of the minister’s motion against the media. The media’s good luck is that the committee chairman, Khushdil Khan, likes the media to cover the hearing.

The charge-sheet against the Pashto-language channel goes on and it says the channel is targeting the minister because he is supporting satellite-based Pashto-language Afghan TV channel Shamshad, which wants foothold in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and other Pashtoon-inhibited areas of the country to challenge the rival Pakistani TV channel.

Such motion against the media is not a new phenomenon. Unethical reporting does remain a key challenge the media is facing in this country. In the case of the Pashto-language TV channel’s “corruption stories” against Mian Iftikhar, we have to wait and see what documents or evidence it will bring to prove the charges. Being a media-person, such questioning will only make ethical reporting stronger and encourage investigative journalism. Agreed. The channel was unethical in it’s reporting and it accused someone who was completely innocent. We, the media, become irresponsible at times. There can be people amidst the journalists who blackmail people for ulterior motives. Mian Sahib says at least he will not be blackmailed. Wonderful that someone is challenging the media also.

But it is not enough to label media being irresponsible and unethical. The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has serious questions to answer. Its reputation as a firm believer of the freedom of expression and free press comes under scrutiny after two major incidents involving two senior journalists — Shaukat Khattak and Hazrat Khan Mohmand.

A departmental inquiry against suspended Hayatabad PS chief Rajab Ali is underway with senior police officer Yamin Khan. But more pressure is on Shaukat Khattak who is bombarded from all sides as the accused police officer is using different methods to impose a forced reconciliation on the complainant.

The “political pressure” in this case is immense and any inquiry officer will feel the heat. Yamin Khan is no exception. Among his friends, Rajab Ali is called “a brave cop” rather “among few cops” who can take on Taliban. Among his foes, Rajab Ali is “criminal-minded” and an “expert” of fake encounters and his “ruthless character” leaves the “most ruthless Taliban commanders” miles behind. Peshawar police chief Imtiaz Altaf felt ashamed when Shaukat Khattak took off his shirt to show him the torture marks inflicted by Rajab Ali when the senior journalist was on professional duty on August 19 — the day when lone suicide bomber had killed over 50 worshippers inside a mosque in Jamrud tehsil of the Khyber Agency.

Those who had seen the torture marks on Khattak’s body they could not believe that a police officer could inflict so deep wounds on an innocent man. The accused police officer will go on to treat others in future with more cruelty if he escapes any punishment, they say.

Mian Iftikhar’s criticism of a media organisation’s “biased and unethical reporting” should not cover the government’s failure also as journalist Hazrat Khan says no little progress has so far been made into attack on him on August 22. The Khyber Union of Journalists has set September 10 as deadline for the government to setup judicial commission and it appears the deadline will pass without significant response from the government.

The trial should be allowed to reach its logical conclusion and both the media and democracy need to emerge victorious and running each other down will not serve anyone’s purpose. The two sides will suffer if they refused to tolerate each other.
Source: Daily Times
Date:9/10/2011