How to survive journalism
“Journalism and terrorism are by definition the same: systemic use of terror as a tool of political coercion.”
–Harris Bin Munawar
The proliferation of the news media in Pakistan in the last decade has put its civilian population under an enhanced threat from journalists. According to recent reports, millions of unsuspecting citizens of the country are now prone to sudden and brutal exposure to sordid, unverified news reports coming from unidentified sources, and accompanied by uncouth sound effects. Many risk encountering comments or questions from actual journalists.
In order to protect common people from the profession, the Society for the Preservation of Sanity has arranged an event titled Stop Press – A workshop on surviving and deflecting reporters. Key speakers include an editor, an ISI officer, and former president Asif Zardari. This document contains emergency protocols to be followed in the event of an encounter with news reports in print and electronic media, and will serve as a pocket guide for the participants.
Encounters with news reports (print):
Ninety percent of Pakistani fathers are reported to read entire newspaper articles out loud if you show any interest in politics, leaving you in a situation where you can’t say no without feeling guilty. Make a habit of leaving for work early in the morning, so that you can throw the delivered newspaper into your neighbor’s house. Visit them in the evening to enjoy watching them quarrel.
If you stop buying newspapers, it will not hurt the business of journalism. Taliban militants and other criminals will continue to buy them so that they can use them in the videos of abducted men and women that they release to their families.
Encounters with news reports (TV):
Accidental encounters with television news reports are especially common during the breaks between popular soap operas. Recent research has also shown that politicians and reporters do not respond to critiques delivered angrily in front of the TV screens.
In order to make the encounter safe, turn down the volume and put on trance music. The newscasters will seem to be subtly dancing to the rhythm.
Encounters with journalists (for common people):
Two kinds of thrilling encounters are especially popular on TV – those between journalists and dangerous animals in the wild, and those between journalists and common people. Both can be potentially fatal.
If a journalist meets you off camera, quickly offer him or her tea and sandwiches. Late in the day, they are also known to respond very well to cigarette offers. Feign an interest in their reporting and tell them you have information that you would only trust a great journalist like them with. Then proceed to narrate to them the rumors that you might have heard or spread about your opponents. Keep your sentences short enough for them to make good news tickers.
Encounters with journalists (for ISI officers):
Always keep a list of names on a piece of paper in your pocket, with the third slot empty. If the journalist resists the move described in the previous section, write their name in the empty slot, and tell them you were looking for them anyway because their name has turned up on the Taliban’s hit list.
Under no circumstances is there a need to waste manpower and resources on tapping their phones. Such measures will not reveal their anonymous sources who give them controversial information. They will never call their secret sources because they don’t have any secret sources. They make it all up.
Encounters on the Internet:
As the definition of journalism continues to expand, the internet is increasingly becoming a dangerous place for common Pakistanis, fraught with freelance journalists and activists of all manners. Many of them are angry because they could not find lucrative jobs in the loss-making news industry. Some say it is their fundamental right to post ads on Facebook that promise unclothed pictures of Veena Malik, but take you to a link farm instead. Others will abuse your mother if you say anything misogynistic.
The key to rising above such attacks is to come up with a clichéd liberal Tweet. Pakistanis love slogans. Then tag someone famous. Husain Haqqani is not the ambassador these days. He probably has the time to read all the tweets that mention him. If he retweets you, you will get five to seven real followers. Half of them might have profile images. One of them might actually be tweeting more than once a week.
According to Reporters without Borders, 20 percent of world’s jailed journalists are in the prisons of Cuba. It will take time before Pakistan can make a similar accomplishment. Until then, beware of journalists.
The author has a degree in Poetics of Prophetic Discourse and works as a Senior Paradigm Officer.