Media and massacre -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Media and massacre

Pakistan Press Foundation

I would like to first pay tribute to Mike Deane, a journalist killed while covering the Cairo massacre. A shocking number of people, mostly supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, have been killed and injured since the Morsi government was dismissed by the Egyptian army.

Thanks to our colleagues in the west, courageous journalists all, we have been able to see the images – horrific as they are – of what has been happening there.

According to reports, at least three journalists had been killed in the line of duty. Yet, more journalists of foreign media outlets are planning to go and cover the events in Egypt.

And what are we doing here? The Cairo violence was not even the top story on most of the forty or so news channels here. There may have been a few talk shows, mostly based on second hand information and emotional comments to get high ‘ratings’. All these were based on information provided by the western media. But no media house sent or planned to send a team to Egypt to cover events there.

Pakistan is perhaps the only Muslim country in the world that has such a vibrant media. It is also the only country whose journalists have created history by fighting for the freedom of the press. And yet, we too failed to be professional.

Post 9/11, the world saw the rise of Arab channels, but we are still far from the standard set by the BBC or CNN, though one may disagree with their policies at times.

Pakistan’s history would have been different had its media been free – and had news channels been there – in 1971. Unfortunately, our print media was not only biased but pro-establishment at the time.

Whether it is Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya or any other major conflict taking on dangerous assignments is the passion of a good journalist. The last 30 years have seen major events take place in our part of the world – from the Iranian revolution to the Arab spring.

However, none of the Pakistani media outlets have ever bothered to cover these events the way they should be. Some senior Pakistani journalists have reported on these issues – usually their own initiative.

Foreign media outlets don’t send their journalists to cover conflict or on dangerous assignments without adequate training. We often criticise western media for their biased reporting, but can we deny the fact that it is they who also provide us news as it happens? Having been in this profession for the last 33 years, I have often been frustrated at not seeing Pakistani correspondents covering important events of history. Like our state, the media is also heavily dependent on foreign sources.

Hundreds – over 300 by some accounts – of journalists have been killed since 9/11, while covering conflict. Several have been killed while covering the Israel-Palestine conflict. Yet, they never stopped covering conflict zones and their organisations continue to fully protect them and their families. We are getting information – biased or unbiased is another debate.

Interestingly, such biased reporting was exposed by their fellow colleagues as one BBC journalist exposed ‘planted stories’ about Iraq and how the American establishment used embedded journalists.

One must appreciate the western media for at least giving us ‘information’. Egypt was the top story in most foreign news channels and newspapers there. When we claim we have free, independent media, we must realise that we do not provide first-hand accounts of events in countries like Egypt, Syria, Burma, Libya, Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Since we do not have first-hand information, often our comments also lack authority. It is high time media houses in Pakistan fulfilled their professional responsibilities.

The writer is a senior journalist. Email: abbas.mazhar@gmail.com

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