Withering journalistic ethics -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Withering journalistic ethics

Pakistan Press Foundation

A humanitarian gesture—optimists and pro-peace activists hoped— could have ended the tumultuous 2017 on a positive note. But that was not to be. On the contrary, Pakistan’s move to permit convicted Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav to meet his mother and wife had further vitiated the atmosphere between the two estranged neighbours. India accused Pakistan of violating the ground rules for much-talked about interaction between Jadhav and his family at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Pakistan dismissed the Indian charges and insisted that both Jadhav’s mother and wife were treated with respect and dignity. It, however, justified measures such as asking the mother and wife of Jadhav to remove their ‘bindis and mangalsutra’ by arguing that it was not an ordinary meeting. Islamabad reminded India that despite its humanitarian gesture, the fact remains that Jadhav was a spy and terrorist. Whether Pakistan should have employed such “stringent security protocol” is a debatable issue. Nevertheless, the blame game ensued after the meeting was hardly surprising given the state of current Indo-Pak hostilities.

But what was shocking, to say the least, was the conduct of some journalists present at the Foreign Office on that day. The meeting between Jadhav and his family was no doubt a big story not only in Pakistan but also across the border. Any sound bite from his mother or wife would have certainly been big breaking news. But when the two ladies requested against the media interaction, their privilege and privacy should have been respected. Still, some over-enthusiastic reporters in order to show their ultra-patriotism tried their best to make their presence felt.

The 40-second video that went viral clearly shows that conduct of some of the reporters present at the Foreign Office, though at a fair distance from Jadhav’s family, was unethical. Hurling taunts and shouting at the two ladies, who were technically Pakistan’s guests since they were duly granted visas, were not something that professional journalists resort to. True, asking questions is a duty of journalists but that does not give them a licence to taunt others.

Make no mistake, Jadhav is an Indian spy and must be brought to justice for the crimes he committed against innocent Pakistanis. But are his mother and wife responsible for his crimes? If so then we must also ridicule and taunt mothers, wives and relatives of all those who have been involved in acts of terrorism in Pakistan. Therefore, irrespective of the fact that both ladies were related to Jadhav under the law they cannot be held accountable for the crimes perpetrated by the RAW agent.

Clearly, the misbehaviour of some Pakistani journalists has undermined the great gesture shown by Pakistan. And by doing so we have given the ever hostile Indian media a chance to further ridicule Pakistan and divert attention from a real issue that Jadhav is a spy and was caught red- handed for espionage, terrorism and subversive activities against Pakistan.

Many would rightly argue that how Indian media would have treated had, for example, Hafiz Saeed’s family travelled across the border? No doubt, they would not have been given a red carpet welcome. But do we need to follow the Indian media if they are going down the drain? Also two wrongs cannot make one right. Therefore, misbehaviour of a few journalists on December 25th could not have any justification. Their mandate was just to perform their professional duty and not act as propagandist and activist.

Finally, one thing that Pakistan, despite facing many tragedies and tribulations, always stood out for is its rich culture of extending hospitality to people from outside, including those who are perceived as our enemies. Those who think journalists did a good job by targeting Jadhav’s mother and wife need to realise that in reality they have done a great disservice to the cause of journalism and Pakistan.

The Express Tribune