Media's rumour mongering -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Media’s rumour mongering

The Supreme Court’s “restraining order” to stop government functionaries from any moves to undermine the judiciary have brought to the fore the unsavoury role being played by a section of the electronic media in the political arena. On Thursday, the chief justice of Pakistan felt compelled to call an extraordinary session of the Supreme Court past midnight, acting on rumours spread by a TV anchor in his programme that the government plans to de-notify the restored judges who had been sent home after General Musharraf’s imposition of emergency on November 3, 2007. During yesterday’s hearing, the attorney general tried his best to convince the apex court that no such move was being contemplated by the government. Even the prime minister’s statement that this was a conspiracy to pitch the two institutions against each other was not considered enough. The surprising factor was that the honourable court took the rumours, not backed by any evidence, seriously and acted promptly.

Unfortunately, the media group from where these rumours originated, through its opinion pieces presented as news items and highly partisan anchors, has time and again attempted to provoke the judiciary to declare the president illegal and dismiss the government. One might recall the September 27 hearing of the NRO verdict implementation, when this channel stopped its routine transmission and this same anchor started painting a doomsday scenario only to eat his words later when the Supreme Court partially accepted the government’s plea and postponed the NRO verdict implementation hearing for two weeks. The media generally, and this media group in particular, has crossed all limits and ridden roughshod on any and every thing we knew as ‘media ethics’.

There has been tension between the government and the judiciary since the judges’ restoration. If this kind of yellow journalism and rumour mongering is allowed to provoke the august court and create confusion and chaos in society, how can we expect sanity to prevail? Intellectuals and saner elements of society, who care for the future of the country, consider a clash of institutions to be extremely destabilising. Seeing a section of the media working on an agenda to somehow incite this clash in order to throw out an elected government is disturbing. When already there is so much strain between the government and the judiciary owing to several cases before the court involving the government, this kind of scare mongering is intolerable. Disseminating unsubstantiated claims and calling opinions upon them on the powerful medium of television and manipulating public opinion to accept a certain view is a coup of sorts via the media. If state institutions start reacting to each ‘breaking news’, it might lead to more confusion and chaos than there already is. It is neither in the interests of such media groups, nor in the interests of the institution of journalism nor the country. Whether one likes a particular party or regime or not, weakening the system by inciting a clash of institutions is not in the country’s interest. We are engaged in a belated effort after many years, under a democratic dispensation, to strengthen the institutions of the state and get them to work within the parameters prescribed for them in the constitution. To establish their limits and define their relationships is a work-in-progress. This kind of journalism is definitely not helping that cause. *
Source: Daily Times