Media, politics and our society -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Media, politics and our society

Javed Malik

A war of words between the PPP and PML-N after parting their ways in Punjab was indeed expected but the way some political leaders chose to unleash their venom against each other has been rather disturbing. Especially for those of us who really believe that democracy can bring positive change for the people of Pakistan. It was quite unpleasant watching some politicians scaling new heights of disgracing their opponents and in the process some rather unsavory expressions seem to have become a part of our political culture. Some may find this amusing but quite frankly, I find such mud-slinging somewhat repulsive, and sincerely hope that our political leaders would realize sooner than later that by indulging in such distasteful war of words, they are neither doing any service to politics nor presenting a very encouraging image of democracy in Pakistan.

Don’t get me wrong I am not at all opposed to having a civilized argument that presents a different and alternative point of view. In fact such discussions that educate, inform and advance the knowledge of the viewers on political and social issues should be encouraged, but I am not amused when I see a current affairs show where a woman parliamentarian finds it necessary to take part holding a plastic “Lota” in one hand, while smashing the another mud “Lota” on the floor to prove her point, or when one female parliamentarian blatantly slanders another’s character or where discussions are reduced to a shouting competitions where whoever can shout the loudest wins. In some cases the language being used is so crude that it makes it uncomfortable if you are watching with your family. Recently, I saw a news channel using clippings from a “Mola Jutt” movie to illustrate the Law Minister’s oratory skills as he descended upon the provincial capital to launch his political offensive in Punjabi style. His somewhat uncanny outbursts or the way media projected them, left a less than desirable impression. Just a few weeks earlier a senator had shocked us all by using extremely abhorrent language outside Parliament House. It troubles me even more when I see a growing trend among us to cheer and egg-on such politicians as they humiliate and disgrace each other. We see this almost every day on our television screens, particularly in some (not all) talk shows.

As someone who is part of the media fraternity, I often find myself wondering if we should really be projecting such mudslinging on our channels in an effort to fetch better ratings? Shouldn’t we be utilizing our strengths in contributing towards building a positive democratic culture in Pakistan instead?

Some might argue that media is only a mirror which simply reflects what is happening in society. There is a lot of substance in that argument, and therefore I would agree that the primary responsibility lies with our politicians, to conduct themselves in a manner befitting their stature. They should not allow their discussions to reach a point where they transform into mudslinging matches. When they present their arguments or speak in public they should remain mindful that along with their own and their party’s image they are also representing democracy. Their words and actions would have a significant impact on how democracy is viewed by the masses.

Therefore it is rather sad to see the unparliamentary words like “Lota” dominating our political discussions and columns these days. In this context, I was somewhat relieved when the prime minister, in a recent Q&A with the press refused to be drawn into using such dreadful word, but as the leader of his party, he needs to do more by restraining his colleagues who seem to have jumped on the Lota bashing bandwagon. I would say the same to other political parties as it is up to the political leadership to promote a culture of mutual respect, tolerance and civilized conduct. Politicians, whether in government or in opposition have every right to disagree and articulate an alternative viewpoint, but it would make more sense if they were to do that in a civilized, cultured and objective manner. It would not only earn them respect but also add substance to their arguments instead of being viewed as hallow political point scoring. Their conduct should be such that the youth of today can look up at them and be encouraged to take part in political affairs of our country in the future.

In many ways, Media (or journalism) and Democracy are interlinked, and we have a collective responsibility of protecting each other. I take pride in the fact that our vibrant media campaigned fearlessly against dictatorship alongside our civil society, lawyers and political leadership and if we have democracy in Pakistan today, we all have a stake in it. Therefore I feel this places an even greater responsibility upon us to ensure that we preserve and strengthen the democratic values, which we fought so hard to achieve. But sometimes I fear that in our race to attract higher TRP ratings are we going a bit too far? By staging these pointless discussions in our talk shows are we only promoting despair and pessimism? With a lot of respect to my colleagues in both media and politics, I think we need to pause for a moment and reflect on our words and actions, as they have a very significant impact on the way our society evolves, and our words and actions should promote hope rather than spreading despair

This takes us back to the argument that media can only reflect what we see in society. I agree, but perhaps in a country where the sapling of democracy has been so frequently uprooted, we need to do a bit more. We can utilize the power of media to educate, inform and in many ways cultivate a culture of positive politics too. At the same time, the political leadership should also realize that it would be more advisable if they can evolve a tradition of positive interaction where discussion can be held within bounds of civility, where criticism can be constructive, and where arguments can be objective. If they can do this, then let me assure you that they would not only raising their stature in the eyes of the public but also doing great service to preserving democracy in Pakistan. The writer is noted media person, a former ambassador, and the Executive Director of the World Forum based in UAE and London. He can be contacted on JavedMalik78@yahoo.com
Source: The News
Date:3/8/2011