Media-gate and the Chief Justice of Pakistan -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Media-gate and the Chief Justice of Pakistan

Money matters. More money, more matters. One such matter has surfaced to illustrate the deceptive and malicious face of the electronic media. On June 13, a talk show on a private TV channel was telecasting something like the performance of Begum Nawazish Ali who was concealing Ali Saleem under her feminine facade. The truth-hiding strategy, ‘media-gate’, has slandered the Chief Justice of Pakistan, breached the trust of the viewers and eroded the credibility of all talk shows.

This one talk show indicates that the anchorpersons have now mastered not only the job of hosting a talk show but also the task of engineering situations without letting the viewers apprehend the point where they are being hoodwinked. Had the off-air clips of that talk show not been uploaded on the social media YouTube, no one would have become able to question the nature — original or artificial — of the talk show. The off-air clips have an important bearing on the on-air clips, as the former reveal the contrived construct of the latter. Secondly, whether or not the off-air clips are a part of the talk show is the headache of the TV channel concerned; the viewers now consider them an intertwined portion of the talk show in question.

To upload the off-air clips may be illegal but see what has been debunked. If Julian Assange can be appreciated globally for showing the true face of the US government to the world through his Wikileaks, why can’t the person who did this job be appreciated for showing the Pakistanis the true face of Pakistani electronic media and for unravelling the ‘conspiracy’ against the Chief Justice of Pakistan?

This was probably the first time someone uploaded the off-air clips of a talk show. That act was unanticipated by the host (Mubasher Lucman), the hostess (Meher Bukhari) and the guest (Malik Riaz Hussain). In fact, they were caught unawares.

The off-air clips can be viewed from two angles: first, the conversation took place between the host, the hostess and the guest; secondly, the gestures exchanged between them. Nevertheless, both aspects shared one common trait: the participants were assembled for one common cause of performing the initial spadework on which more such talk shows could be erected either to force the Chief Justice of Pakistan to step down or at least to make him stay away from the Bahria Town cases pending in the Supreme Court.

In a talk show, the trajectory of which is not predetermined, questions unknown to a guest are asked. The guest responds and sometimes commits mistakes while at other times, gives impressive answers. Based on that weakness and strength, the talk show moves on towards its logical conclusion. However, in the talk show in question, the natural flair was compromised deliberately because the guest knew the questions while the host and hostess knew the answers. Secondly, the exchange of gestures in the off-air clips indicated that the show was moving on as per the expectations of the participants. Thirdly, there was no room left for the guest to make a mistake.

Commonly, the objective of a talk show is to discuss an issue, the conclusion of which is not predestined. Unfortunately, in the talk show in question, all the participants already knew the conclusion. Hence, the talk show did not discuss an issue but feigned to do so. It was a Malik Riaz ‘show’. The demeanour of the show signified that there was no need for any host or hostess.

The host and hostess acted as facilitators of what the guest wanted to project. The guest was a party to an issue (Malik Riaz vs Arsalan Iftikhar); the host and hostess colluded with the guest and consequently, also became a party to that issue. Secondly, both anchorpersons are guilty of depriving the viewers of the originality of the programme and producing artificiality. Thirdly, they all are guilty of scandalising the Chief Justice of Pakistan by making a rationale for broaching the topic of his credibility in the media. In fact, it was the off-air performance of the ‘actors’ taking part in the show that revealed their true objectives, the nature of their meeting, the trajectory of the talk show, and the future of the topic at hand.

Viewers are piqued to discover that they are being befooled in the name of enlightening them on various issues through conducting talk shows. Innocent people keep spending their precious time in watching these talk shows but end up buying biscuits and beverages displayed for selling through the advertisements shown in the breaks. Unbiased media supports democracy but what about the biased media? It is promoting corruption in society. It is playing with the objectivity and the sense of justice of the viewers. The media has presented itself as a buyable commodity. Malik Riaz, a contractor-cum-mediator has proved that point correct.

The episode brings a viewer to other questions. For instance, what about the rest of the programmes shown on the electronic media; are they also contrived? Does it make sense anymore in viewers making phone calls during question time of talk shows and asking questions if the talk show is a farce? For how long has this practice of doctored programmes been going on in the electronic media? In the past, how many such programmes have been conducted? Why should one believe any more in the electronic media: planted programmes, planted questions, planted hosts, planted guests, planted telephone callers and planted social media participants? What is the future of this practice?

Postscript: On the same TV channel, Mujeeb ur Rehman Shami, a senior journalist and a renowned analyst (along with the co-host Habib Akram) was found defending the anchorpersons of the talk show in question. By so doing, he compromised on his principles of speaking the truth. He might have secured more air space at the TV channel in return, but his admirers, including this writer, are disappointed with him.

Daily Time