Walking the talk
The PML-N stalwart Chaudhry Nisar’s recent accusations that some TV channels owners and anchors have been bribed by the government ahead of the 2013 elections represents a good moment to reflect on the state of the media since it came into its own in this last decade. Nisar says he has ‘proof’ to back his claims of media corruption and even has in his possession recordings of phone conversations between persons “involved in the whole game.”
According to Nisar’s account, he has no intention of maligning the media as a whole but only wants to bring to light the embezzlement of billions from the national exchequer in the name of advertisements and distribution of money to some TV channels “through people working in the garb of media men.” In response to Nisar’s charges, various representative bodies of journalists have urged him to come forward with names of individuals and organisations. “Otherwise such statements malign the journalist community as a whole,” National Press Club President Farooq Faisal lamented. The PPP, too, has responded to the allegations and called them a “conspiracy to defame the entire journalist community.” What are we to make of all this?
There is no gainsaying that if Nisar has ‘evidence’ to back his staggering claims, he must come out with it. There is also no gainsaying that in the last decade, the media in Pakistan has been tilling a deserted furrow in uncovering the truth about corruption, and has always called for honest and impartial investigations into alleged acts of misconduct, whether by those in government, opposition, the armed forces or the judiciary.
Where public inquiries and accountability were previously forbidden territory, the media has played a central role in bringing them into the mainstream. The media should therefore hardly shy away from investigations into its own workings or from raising the curtain on those within its own ranks who are muddying the entire waters of journalism through their acts of omission or commission.
True power needs a sharp moral compass as well as real and meaningful accountability, and it would indeed be a shame if the media itself failed in terms of these core principles. It thus has to take the first step to put in place rules and regulations to ensure that it can walk its talk. Being open and transparent and holding ourselves up to the same level of scrutiny that we hold others to – that is the need of the hour, as well as the very basis of integrity.