The media and the national interest -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

The media and the national interest

By Alam Rind

Pakistani media has grown exponentially during the last decade, especially the electronic media. In 2001, the country had only three state-owned television channels. Now, over 70 channels are beaming news, entertainment, business and educational programmes for Pakistani viewers. A few of these channels are quite popular among Pakistanis abroad.

Social networking sites like Facebook have become a vital means for young people, in particular, to connect with one another. However, the immense power that the media commands calls for a corresponding sense of responsibility. Is the media in Pakistan alive to the needs of the different strata of society and to what extent does it keep in mind national interests?

It goes without saying that the media has the right to report, but it should report facts. There is an implicit difference between unbiased reporting of facts and proffering of opinions. Large sections of the media, however, take a position in their reporting on every event that happens and this undermines its objectivity. Reporters and anchorpersons often use superlatives in their reporting or on their talk shows. They can easily be accused of supporting certain constituencies. The dissent so created adds to the nation’s anxiety and may also create commotion and unrest, which is highly undesirable.

The impact of the media on social and cultural aspects of society is very pronounced. The unabated invasion of western culture is undermining our values. We see a glimpse of that in the way our younger generation talks and conducts itself. Do we want to give up our superior ethics-based value system in our quest to westernise ourselves?

Another facet of the media’s power is that it can globalise an issue in no time. The recent phenomenon of public uprisings in the Arab world, which led to a change of government in Tunisia and Egypt and has triggered serious uprisings in Libya, Bahrain and Yemen, is an example of this. In most cases, these uprisings were facilitated by the widespread use of social media and this, in turn, was projected on a worldwide scale. In this backdrop, if we correlate the number of interviews of terrorists telecast by different channels and their effect on the world’s perception of Pakistan, it will not come across as a surprise that the world considers the country to be the epicentre of terrorism.

The media can further contribute towards nation-building by making efforts to bridge ethnic, religious and social divides and by reinforcing positive aspects like our philanthropic practices and deeply ingrained values. We should also remain conscious of the fact that the media is a double-edged weapon and can be used by our adversaries for propaganda.
Source: The Express Tribune
Date:3/5/2011