What is ‘positive’ journalism?
HOLDING the print and electronic media responsible for projecting Pakistan in a negative light, President Pervez Musharraf has criticised the press and TV for not reporting the “government’s achievements in the fields of economy, education, telecommunication and even human rightsÂ”.
His objections sound strange, especially because in the same breath, the president was aglow over the freedom his government has given to the media.
He is right when he demands that freedom should be accompanied with responsibility. But this means different things to different people.
For the media, it is the height of irresponsibility if it fails to report events that are taking place all around. That is how it was in the days of yore when authoritarian rulers muzzled the press and the audio-visual media was government-controlled.
A corollary of this control was the pressure the media faced to adopt what was then called “development journalism” – reporting the government’s ‘achievements’ in glowing terms.
It is strange that President Musharraf should be claiming that he has granted freedom of expression to the people and should simultaneously be complaining of the media’s failure to “raise the morale of the people” by highlighting positive things.
The fact is that a responsible press or TV channel is expected to take an over-all view of what is happening in the country and inform and educate the people about the good and the bad accordingly. By and large, this is what is being done. If viewers and readers tend to react adversely to the goings on in the country, there are two reasons for it. First, it is human nature for people to express their emotions more visibly and vocally when they learn of shocking things such as a bomb blasts, rallies and violence, rather than the so-called “positive” developments that make one feel good but take time to sink into one’s mind.
Secondly, to make an impact, the ‘good’ developments must affect the lives of a large number of people in an unmistakable manner to tilt the balance in favour of the positive, when the full picture is taken into account. Unfortunately, the country is going through difficult times and the media should not be expected to distort or suppress facts to paint a rosy picture of things.