Tagged with " media"
Apr 27, 2013 - Media    19 Comments

The ultimate beyghairti

 

No matter what part of the world you are in, you wake up to the news of your home courtesy your smart phone. I woke up this morning and saw the FB status update of a friend who lives in Garden Karachi about a bomb blast near her home. A quick look at the news websites revealed that it was an Awami National Party (ANP) election office in Orangi Town that was bombed.  Before this, two other election offices of Mutahidda Qaumi Movement (MQM) were attacked in Karachi and other election related activities of ANP in KPK. According to Kamran Khan’s program on Geo, ANP has been attacked 10 times during 2013 election campaign in KPK and Karachi while MQM is attacked thrice, all incidences took place in Karachi. For almost all the incidences of violence against these two relatively secular parties, Tehreek-e-Talibaan Pakistan (TTP) has claimed responsibility.

Considering that elections are just a couple of weeks away, one would think that the security apparatus of the country would be after these TTP terrorists who are not only committing heinous acts of violence against civilians engaging in perfectly legal political activity but are also obstructing the democratic process by attacking and hindering political campaign of the aforementioned political parties. These two parties are major political forces in two of the provinces of the country.

But no, the security forces of the country are busy ensuring that no one dares to utter a word against them. First victim of censorship was the newly launched Capital TV, when a former aide of Zaid Hamid, one Mr Emad Khalid committed the gustakhana act of voicing his uncensored opinion about the COAS Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani, the channel was taken off the airs for a couple of days and only reopened after a written apology was submitted to PEMRA. Major newspapers did not carry this story and a quick web survey reveals that it was only some blogs and Pakistan Press Foundation’s website that carried this incident.  Curiously, elected Head of the state is the butt of all the jokes on every TV channel but no directives were ever issued by PEMRA to the TV channels to respect the august office of the head of the state.

That incident happened last week.

Earlier today, Beygairat Brigade’s third song Dhinak Dhinak was blocked by PTA. Dhinak Dhinak is a satirical song about the continued power that the top brass of army enjoys in Pakistan. Beygairat Brigade – or Shameless Brigade – is a Lahore based band which uses political and social satire in music. Their previous songs Alu Anday and Paisay ki game were not banned probably because they attacked the political leadership of the country, this time around Dhinak Dhinak focused on “Jernailan da jadu” and raised points like how the army generals never contest contest elections but always enjoy absolute power. Though the lead singer of the band, Ali Aftab Saeed was quoted in Telegraph  after the song was released online (no TV channel was willing to air it) that he has no issues with the institution of army but with the attitude of a few generals, the song was blocked by PTA on the eve of April 26th. When asked, Ali Aftab Saeed said that the band was not informed about the ban on the video by the authorities. They just found out about it when they tried to access the video on Vimeo.

Considering what happened to people who were called in for a reprimand – people like Late Syed Saleem Shehzad who succumbed to  torture endured during one such meeting – it’s may be a blessing that the video was just blocked by PTA and no one was called for a meeting.

The Dhinak Dhinak video came back online after a few hours of ban. May be it was the cheeky message at the end of the video where the band asked their fans to not like the song – “No need to like the video, we will be dead any way” – that saved them.

Beygairat Brigade is probably happy that their song is back for the world to see (I am told that it is still blocked by some ISPs), investors of Capital TV must have sighed with relief when their channel went on air after the hiatus of two days. People will soon forget about these imagined or real slights on the forces that don’t want to be named or discussed objectively, but what people will never forget is the ultimate beyghairti which is letting the TTP terrorists roam free and attack the forces that dare to raise voice against them. This is what future generations of Pakistanis will remember about our times and we will be considered the ultimate beygherats who not only let these terrorists burn down our cities, many amongst us found justifications for their acts and provided them political cover and the security forces failed to do their only job which provision of security for its people. If this is not beyghairti, then nothing is.

The misogynist narrative on Hum TV



The gender-based discourses on Pakistani television may not be very dynamic but the way they are discussed leaves one to ponder if those who are at the helm of the affairs have any idea about the impact of their careless deliberations on the subject.

Take the case in point of a television serial ‘Zindagi Gulzar Hai’ airing on Hum TV these days. Only last week, the male protagonist of the story picked a fight with his girlfriend about her clothing and a direct quote from the play said, “if you had seen her clothes, you would have known that she was a walking invitation for harassment”. In times like these, where there is global protest about women’s clothing and how it has no relevance to the sexual violence they face, here is a drama where a protagonist — who is extremely popular among women — is telling women that yes, their clothing invites men to harass them. In case anyone is wondering, the woman was wearing a sleeveless top with a shawl draped around her shoulders.

This was not the lone case of misogyny in that particular play. The protagonist also had issues with the mobility of his female family members. He wanted to impose a curfew for his sister and wanted his mother to seek the permission and approval of his father before she could leave the city on a work assignment. He said repeatedly that “he is a man and can go wherever he wants and whenever he wants and women cannot do the same”. While it may be a reality in our society, reinforcing such ideas in the guise of propriety and religiosity is shoddy and has consequences for the audience. What disappointed this scribe even more is the fact that both the writer and the producer were women and that the producer has a personal history of struggling for her rights.

Our television plays seem to glorify the role of women who are situated within the four walls of their homes, sacrifice their happiness for their families and do not complain if their husbands beat them or take second wives or are just really horrible to them. Those who are financially independent, situated outside their homes and interact with men who they are not related to are the bad ones. This does not only judge all women who choose to interact with others in the public sphere, but also presents a distorted version of reality to women who stay at home, that all those who do step out in the public sphere do so after compromising their morality.

Ours is a society that is used to either lecture or indoctrination. It is a society where powerful forces indulge in monologues and there is hardly any room for dialogue. We do not open up conversation on gender; we tell people what is appropriate through Islamic programmes, television dramas and literature and expect them to follow what is told.

It is about time we challenge the television narrative that focuses on taming female sexuality and identity, and glorifies the sacrificial women whose ideal sphere of activity is the private space and is critical of those who venture out in the public space and implies that they do it at the cost of compromising their morality and roles assigned by religion. In any case, the concept of a stay-at-home woman is a very urban middle class one and if half the population had stayed at home, the economy would have collapsed a long time back.

First published in Express Tribune

The Jerry Springer-ization of Pakistani talk shows


Reality TV is big business in the West and audiences tune in to watch traditional Reality TV (competition or game shows, voyeuristic shows, makeovers or self improvement shows, social experiment shows or shows on paranormal or supernatural phenomenon) in big numbers. Reality television stars like Kim Kardashian make more money by just tweeting about the events they have been to and products they use than most folks do by working forty hours a week after at least 4 years of college education (some of us are stupid enough to get a masters degree or two)
In Pakistan what has surpassed the traditional Reality TV and other forms of entertainment is the genre and sub genres of talk shows. On paper, an ideal talk show should have the right balance between spontaneity in and control over interactions of its participants, between realism and representation, the gendered dimensions of the programs and the role of the hosts and the quality of arguments on the shows. The reason a talk show should be cognizant of all these factors is because a talk show is fast emerging as a mediated space for public participation and debate. Not only that, it also provides an opportunity for the expression of voices that are otherwise excluded from the media. Whether it is through live audience sitting in the studio, telephone call ins, emails and opinions on the social media forums, audiences are participating in television content like never before.

A quick look at the talk shows produced in Pakistan reveals that most of them – news, current affairs or entertainment variety – tend to ignore the factors they should be mindful about and are turning into trash reality TV. Talk shows generally fall in the categories of public discussions, therapeutic and conflict talk shows. However, we in Pakistan have political talk shows where instead of keeping a balance between spontaneity and managing the control over program, a host actually encourages the conflict between the participants to garner more eye balls. Morning shows that specifically target female audience perpetuate misogynist stereotypes with impunity. There is hardly any significant representation of marginalized groups – most participants and hosts regularly use the line “Akhir ko hum sab Muslaman hain” (After all we are all Muslims) which not only negates the existence of the religious minorities in the country but also encourages homogeneity of the society as a desired goal. We have early and mid morning shows that telecast live exorcisms turning a talk show into Reality TV – of the worst variety.
Those of us old enough to remember The Jerry Springer Show from 1990s and 2000s recall it as the lowest form of Reality TV which seemed to count on the stupidity of it audience for high ratings. Unfortunately most of the Pakistani TV content in general and talk shows in particular are copying the formula of creating brash, in-your-face and emotionally excitable content. While Jerry Springer was flagrantly and self-consciously trash television, Pakistani talk shows still believe in their righteousness and suffer from an acute case of a sense of self aggrandizement.
As a country where other forums of public discourse are severely lacking, the important of public debate in the media assumes more significance. Unfortunately, commercialization and need for higher ratings has resulted not only in subliminally low brow television but it has also begun to represent public opinion rather than to provide public space for the emergence and creation of diverse public opinion. It is high time the creators and producers of talk shows become aware of their responsibility, it is not just television for ratings, it is shaping the public and private discourse on matters relating to politics, society, gender and rights of the marginalized. 
Originally written for The Express Tribune, this is the unedited version. 

Aug 14, 2012 - published work, women    4 Comments

The overwhelmingly male story of Pakistan

The story of Pakistan is overwhelmingly male. Whether we discuss politics, economics, history, literature or entertainment, we tell the stories of men and we tell them with a dominant male perspective. Take Independence Day celebrations in the media for instance; there are stories of valour of our soldiers, fighter pilots are glamorized, farmers are shown driving a tractor tilling the land, male welders are working on a construction sites and boys playing cricket in the grounds of Minar-e-Pakistan. If we are lucky there are a couple of mentions of women; usually an elderly maternal type is shown who is praying either for the country or its soldiers defending the borders or perhaps a teacher or nurse.
If such a representation is to be believed, then a very small percentage of our population is female and this is the country of men. Those who do get the representation are the chador clad virtuous women who either pray for the men who are out living their lives or are in care giving roles, the rest do not count.
The concept of chardeewari and women staying inside is a very urban middle class notion and a considerably small percentage of our population falls under this category. The fact that our national narrative is designed accordingly and has no place for women who do not cement the patriarchal notion that only a woman who is covered in a chador is virtuous and worthy of respect and can be the face of a Pakistani woman is mind boggling. A visit to any village in most parts of the country would discredit this notion. Women work in their homes, outside their homes, they work long hours in the barns and the farms and contribute significantly to the economy. Their contributions may not formally be acknowledged in the GDP but their productivity is part of the society and economy.
The popular model of women that gets space in the national narrative is not only misogynist — showing women in supporting roles only, as if they are not capable of living a full life — but is also very classist. Most women cannot afford to stay at home and thus must work — at times, harder and for longer hours than men, in order to make ends meet. If the chador clad stay-at-home woman is peddled as a socially desirable model that receives representation in the national narrative, then the country is doing utmost injustice to the majority of women who cannot afford this way of life.
What about the contributions of urban women who do not abide by the chador and char deewari philosophy? Should they be excluded from the national narrative because they do not conform to the popular idea of what is considered appropriate for women? They live and work in Pakistan, contribute to the economy, pay taxes and are waiting for the day when they, too, will get their rightful space in the national narrative, right beside the soldier, the doctor and the farmer — and not in the role of a caregiver. By default, women are caregivers; if she is a mother, then she is the primary caregiver. However, defining her by just that one aspect of her life and ignoring others is tantamount to making her half a person.
This Independence Day, let’s pledge to make an effort to provide space to everyone who is a part of this country and have them become a part of the national narrative. That is the only way forward. The women are half of the story of this country, let the other half be heard.

Originally written for The Express Tribune
Aug 6, 2012 - rant, Society    10 Comments

Moral policing has found a new champion in Iftekhar Chaudhry


Arrggghhh!
As if we have not had enough of moral policing from our Mumanis and Chachis, teachers and professors, co-workers  and bosses, Chief Justice of Supreme Court of Pakistan decided to take action on behalf of a letter written by Former head honcho of Jamaat-e-Islami Qazi Hussain Ahmed and Justice (retd) Wajihuddin (seriously Wajihuddin Sahib?) against obscenity aired on TV channels. Justice Chaudhry believes that TV channels are spreading vulgarity and called PEMRA officials to the court to admonish them.
According to the news reports, the Chief Justice cited some offensive programmes and advertisements and said that one finds it difficult to watch them with family. However, I am saddened by the fact that he does not cite offensive programmes that one cannot watch even when one is all alone, let alone with the family and inquisitive children because they test the limit of sanity. Where was the suo moto when the Engineer Agha Waqar was going on about his waterkit and federal minister Khursheed Shah was raving about it? Why was it all not shut down because if you ask me, our national pride was in tatters when that travesty was being passed around as scientific breakthrough? I was so embarrassed to watch it that I literally hid my face. My nephew asked me if laws of thermodynamics can really be altered and I was even more ashamed to be a tax paying citizen of a country where a 12 year old was subjected to witness this litany and had to make sure that it was not true. 
I hope one of the obscene programmes that CJ took notice of is Maya Khan’s Ramazan show where she adresses everyone – men, women, children, adults, and green little Martians – with terms like mera bacha, pyaroo, golo polo and what not. Her conversation is peppered with many Hai Allahs and fake tears. Watching her calling a man like Nooruddin Bhai (he is an activist in his 50s who suffers from muscular dystrophy and has been working for rights of people with disability) pyaroo tested every fibre of intelligence, rationality and prudence in my body, but that is not considered vulgar because her conversation is interspersed with multiple references to Allah and Rasool and she wears a duppata on her head!
While CJ had PEMRA’s chairman in his court for this matter of obscenity, the CJ thought that he should also ask the PEMRA chairman (CJ had issues with him being just an acting chairman for over a year) about the programming on private TV channels who air programs about higher judiciary and ordered him to bring on all press conferences and programmes against judiciary before the next hearing. However he had no issues with programs that mock politicians of the country and call them all sorts of names because they are ‘popular’ and ‘in good humour’ which basically meant that TV channels are free to get as obnoxious and obscene with the politicians in name of popularity and good humour, but the judiciary stays untouchable. He rounded up his sermon observations by calling up on the TV channels to leave religion out of it. Looks like moral policing in this country found a new judge and champion against the heretics who enjoy the very very obscene display of something like a Bilal Khan video or women’s tennis.
If my twitter feedis to be believed, Justice Chaudhry told the PEMRA chairman that August personalities like Aurya Maqbool (a babu) and Ansar Abbasi (Journalist and former Jamat-e-Islami worker) will point out the incidents of fuhashi (obscenity) and PEMRA will shut it down. So basically, if CJ has his way – and he usually does have his way – dudes who have no business butting in broadcasting and have no experience in national broadcasting policies formulation will decided the content that will be allowed to go on air. At times I wonder if I live in a country that is a replica of Ayn Rand’s Foundtainhead and Mufti-e-Azam Iftekhar Muhammed Chaudhry is the Ellsworth Toohey of our times. Our tragedy is that we don’t have anyone to challenge the Ellsworth Tooheys of Pakistan.

PS: Not the most coherent post but I was kinda livid when I read about it.

Jul 30, 2012 - published work, religion    4 Comments

This Ramazan everyone is a beggar


Religion dominates airwaves all year round in Pakistan. If it is not programs of religious variety offering religious advice on food, matrimony and Halal banking, then someone would be offering Istekhara services to those who seek divine guidance. If it is not the theological debates, then it would be programs targeting women telling them how to be good Muslim wives and daughters, tv serials telling women how to be submissive and regressive in name of religion, morning show hosts censoriously telling young men and women not to venture into parks and indulge in un-Islamic acts of sitting on the benches. If this is how things go all year around, the religiosity of the TV content goes up considerably during Ramazan. 
The TV channels with more moolah put up huge sets, get hoards of people to come in, and cram in everything in those few hours: real life tragedies, sob stories, hyper religiosity, overt piety, a lot of charity, a bit of drama with a dash of emotions and tears, cooking shows, many give aways and gifts for the audience present in the studios and the audience glued to their TV sets in their homes, naats and religious sermons and last but not the least would be the transmission show hosts’ claims of grandiosity that they cook the best kebabs, give away most money to the needy on their show, get the best ratings and convert, or revert if you prefer that, people of other faiths to Islam – live on TV. It is reality TV with a hint of religion to make it palatable for most.
All that is fine because it is TV and at the end of the day, it’s a business and everyone wants to make some money. What gets my goat is that they are perpetuating a culture where people think asking others for money or begging is fine. In one example, a man who earns Rs8,000 per month came in and asked for half a million rupees to pay for his wife’s medical bills. One of his excuses was that he has four kids that he cannot afford to feed. The wife probably fell ill by bearing children after children when she was obviously physically weak and anemic. The host’s reaction was not only to sympathise with him but to urge his viewers to donate money to him. I, on the other hand, wanted the host to ask this man why he procreated four times when he knew he was earning just Rs. 8,000 a month. Was he expecting a miracle or did he think his financial conditions would change all of a sudden?
By offering him and the likes of him the money, aren’t TV channel being irresponsible and giving the message that it is ok to not plan your life or be responsible for your choices, we will guilt others with more money into giving it you. Lines like “Yeh bachi namaz parhtee hai, iskay ilaaj ke liye paisay dain” are also discriminatory. If a person is regular with his namaz, he or she deserves a greater chunk of the charity than the heathen who do not pray 5 times a day, no matter how grave their need is. Financial assistance is fine but it would be better if it comes with a bit counseling about family planning and life choices. 
Instead of urging people to give away for charity, why don’t we urge the audience to give decent wages to the people who work for them so they do not need to be supplanted with charity? If you really want to make a lasting more dignified difference, how about vowing to pay decent wages to everyone who works for you –at your workplace, at your home and around you – and getting others around you to do the same. 
Originally written for The Express Tribune, this is the longer version. 

Though this is a serious piece but if you want to be entertained by the sheer stupidity of my countrymen, please go to the ET website and read comments.
May 26, 2012 - population, published work    2 Comments

Where are the health stories in the newspapers?


A country where 58% of the population is food insecure and over 43% children are malnourished, health is an outstanding concern all the time. Add the repeated misery of floods of 2010 and 2011 and displacement of population in hundreds of thousands because of military operations in KPK and FATA and it becomes an ever more pressing concern. When a matter is that critical, you expect to see highlighted everywhere. Unfortunately, the Pakistani media is, by and large, silent on this issue.
Let’s start with the health issues of children. Not only neonatal mortality is responsible for 57% of all deaths in children younger than 5 years in the country, the country also has the dubious distinction of having the highest neonatal mortality rate in the region. Nearly two million children less than five years of age die of pneumonia. Similar number dies of diarrhea every year. According to UN figures, around 432,000 children die before reaching the age of five in Pakistan and the majority of these lives are taken by pneumonia, diarrhea, measles, malaria, tuberculosis and tetanus. But if you go through any newspaper in Pakistan or watch any news bulletin on any of the TV channels, you would think that the only disease killing children in Pakistan is Polio.
Pick any newspaper, almost 90 per cent of the news items about children’s health cover stories about polio vaccination drive of the government, its success, failures and the political mileage politicians get out of it. Half of such stories would be based on statements by political personalities such as Aseefa Bhutto Zardari, Farzana Raja and Shehnaz Wazir Ali during various campaign launches. Ironically we are not even doing that very well and Pakistan is one of the three countries — the other two being Nigeria and Afghanistan — in the world which still has the disease. Pakistan has not done much to meet the millennium development goal of reducing childhood mortality by 2015 and control of infectious disease which should have been the topmost priority remains neglected.
Health experts have noted that the higher occurrence of communicable diseases among children and acute malnutrition in the country is primarily due to poverty, higher illiteracy rate among mothers and the government’s lack of commitment towards ensuring food security to each and every citizen. They also attributed it to the inherent problems in infant feeding practices and access to “right” foods, a problem that can be addressed if media makes it a priority and educated masses about it. Unfortunately media is busy pursuing its own agenda and is content with airing stories of nurses fighting it out with traders in the streets of Lahore during protests for increase in their wages. 
As far as health issues of adults are concerned, one sees stories only about cases of criminal negligence, medical malpractice, lack of infrastructure, absentee doctors and protests and strikes by medical and paramedical staff. There is hardly any coverage given to issues relating to nutrition, health policy, legislation and drug pricing policies, etc.
With the devolution of the ministry of health following the Eighteenth Amendment, Pakistan faces the challenge of developing a reliable provincial infrastructure that would integrate the efforts of various stakeholders in promoting better health outcomes. Unfortunately, we are not even at the stage where a workable policy is developed and budgetary priorities are reassessed, so developing a workable provincial infrastructure remains a distant dream.

Written originally for The Express Tribune, this is the unedited version. 

May 19, 2012 - published work, Satire, Urdu    4 Comments

The amazing art of writing an Urdu column

I write a weekly column for this newspaper, an English language daily, and at times it becomes difficult to comment on things with a perspective that is fresh, relevant and not dated – week after week. Not only that, but one is also required to be coherent and appear sane most of the time (there are some exceptions to the rule though).
I envy op-ed writers of Urdu newspapers; most of them are not encumbered with notions of relevance and coherence. If one reads Urdu op-ed pieces for a week, it becomes clear that art of writing an Urdu op-ed is quite straight forward. It mostly starts with a story of a brave kingof the days long gone and how he took care of his people and somehow linking it to governance issues of a country fighting a multipronged war, battling an energy crisis of epic proportions and is saddled with a population of over 180 million people. Most of the times, the king would not have name and even when there is a name, that particular incident would not be part of the history. I know, I have checked. At times, I have even looked into Dastan-e-Amir Hamza for references mentioned in one of the pieces but the stories were so fantastical that I could not find them in centuries old tales of Amir Hamza.
Introspection is alien to Urdu columnists. Pakistan is never to be blamed for its ills, it is always some foreign powers who are trying to sabotage the fort of Islam and our Islamic bomb (the last I checked, inanimate objects were not practicing any faith but I digress).  The foreign country bashing is not limited to but is generally aimed at United States of America and India – depending on what the topic of conversation is. The really good writers do not just go ahead and blame India for all slights and transgressions – imagined and real – they invent a fictional white Caucasian character they have met in trips abroad and make him say that India is a horrible place where everyone is evil and Pakistan is the ultimate Shangri-La.  After all, the hidden racist within us would agree more with a learned white man than a Pakistani, even if that Pakistan happens to be an esteemed columnist traveling to the foreign lands inhabited by learned white people.
Some Urdu columnists also like to reproduce the fan mail they get, usually from cities like Layyah and Narowal. English op-ed writers cannot do that because they generally do not get fan mail from Layyah. What they do get – and this generalization is solely based on the mail I and two of my columnist friends get – is hate mail for being (a) liberal fascist, (b) English medium elite or best of all, (c) an agent of the foreign variety.
At times I envy the Urdu columnists. I really like the idea of starting a piece with a fairy tale or two but it is not as simple. For starters, I like to be historically correct and even though I write for a newspaper, my editor is cyber savvy and always asks me to provide hyper links for the internet edition to provide context and to substantiate my argument which puts any fantasies I may harbor about introducing fictional characters in my op-ed pieces to sleep. As fantastical historical characters and fan mail from Layyah are not viable choices, one is only left with the option of blaming it all on the “unholy” trinity of India, Israel and USA. This is how one masters the art of becoming an Urdu columnist.
First published in The Express Tribune, this is the unedited version.
PS: After reading the comments on the Tribune website, I think I must point out that this is a satire and I do NOT (a) think I have the authority to declare any country/person/idea unholy/evil, it was just written to get a certain point across(b) intend to start a language war (c) represent every person who writes in English in Pakistan.
PPS: I have been trying to get published in Urdu, but failed, So before anyone goes and blames me for not writing in Urdu, find me an editor who is willing to publish me in Urdu.
PPPS: I envy Urdu op-ed writers. They get fan mail (postal variety) from Layyah and I get hate mail (electronic variety) from Lahore and Raiwind. I really really want to get postal fan mail from places like Naushki, Layyah and Kamaliya (meri choti choti khuwahishat).
Apr 21, 2012 - published work, terrorism    2 Comments

The geography of news

With its incidents of terrorism dominating the airwaves, Karachi probably is considered the most dangerous part of the world’s most dangerous country. It may be true but it is definitely not the whole truth. Any news originating in Karachi trumps news originating in any other part of the country because Karachi is at the centre of the journalism business and other peripheral areas just do not get similar airtime. A recent study by Intermedia Pakistan on “How Pakistani Media reports terrorism-related conflict”, reveals that the geography of a news item is very important in determining its selection and and placement.
The study came up with some very interesting observations. Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P), Fata, Balochistan and Sindh seem to be suffering almost daily from incidents of terror. While the print media is giving due coverage to all regions, the priority and non-priority areas are quite obvious in electronic media reporting.
According to the study, Sindh remains a priority area for TV channels. One of the reasons that Sindh is regularly featured with respect to terrorism could be the fact that terrorism incidents in Sindh, specifically Karachi, are usually linked to political upheaval. The fact that the head offices of most news channels with a team of skilled reporters happen to be in Karachi, also helps in detailed reporting of many aspects of the incidents, something which is not possible in remote areas. On the other hand, news about Fata and K-P seems to be relatively underplayed on TV.
The study reports a total of 119 incidents of terrorism in Sindh between January and March 2012. On TV, the region seems to be a priority with 56 stories aired in the monitored bulletins. Balochistan was mentioned as a terrorism target as many as 123 times during the same period but the number of related news items about the province was only 15.
However, it is not only the number of items about Sindh that makes this region a priority area. A look at the placement and significance of news items from here confirms this trend. Television channels give priority to certain news items by putting them ahead in news bulletins; news generated in Sindh is given more priority in prime time bulletins compared with news generated in Balochistan.
Balochistan seems largely under-reported on the electronic media. News from Balochistan makes only nine per cent of news on the nine o’clock bulletin. The whole world knows how bad the situation is in Balochistan and that incidents of terrorism occur every day, yet the province only gets about 10 per cent of the priority time in television news bulletins. The print media has been more responsible regarding this and 28 per cent of priority items that appear on the front page of newspapers are from Balochistan.
News is a serious business and reporting terrorism is a very sensitive matter. Many reporters have lost their lives while reporting from the conflict zones of Balochistan and Fata because militants felt that they were not given enough coverage. If news reporting continues to be about the urban centres, not only will we not know what is truly happening in the areas of our news periphery, but it may also trigger misguided policies at the state level.
The detailed report is available online at Intermedia’s website www.intermedia.org.pk

Originally written for The Express Tribune 

A person’s womb and gestation is a private matter, even if that person happens to be Meera!

Of late, I have been visiting the media and communications departments of a few universities and speaking with students about how to sift through the clutter, focus on the news and cut out the irrelevant bits and pieces so that every news item should be crisp, precise and most of all accurate and free of embellishments. 
I have innumerable print and video clips that tell us what NOT to do while writing a report or making a package. Unfortunately, clips that show us good ethical journalism are rare. Try as I may, pieces where the reporter and/or his editor have applied basic critical thinking tools and journalistic ethics are hard to come by. However some reports are so bad they do not even care for a even a minimum degree of professionalism and print slanderous, unsubstantial and at times damaging stories that serve no purpose other than humiliating people and provide salacious fodder for the voyeuristic amongst us. This report about Meera’s alleged abortion by the horrible horrible Jang group is one such example.
For starters, this report is about a very private matter of a woman and should not have been published. Getting an abortion under any circumstances is a private matter and should be dealt as such. But the reporter Shahab Ansari not only reported the incident, he milked it for what it was worth and added other unnecessary detail. For instance, when the doctor told him that the abortion was carried out due to no fetal activity, he chose to speculate if the actress had carried out actions to stop that fetal activity of which he had no proof. Even if it had been true, the matter is private and not open to public debate. You and I and that reporter have no right to determine what a mother should or should not have done. We should NOT be interested in another person’s womb and gestation activity, period.  
He also speculated that Meera wanted to conduct the DNA test of the fetus which obviously is no one’s business but the moron of a reporter had to add this bit to make the news more masalaydaar for lack of a better word.
The doctor at the hospital should be stripped of her medical practice license for divulging all the private details of her patient’s medical history. I request all the Lahori ladies looking for ob/gyn services should boycott Dr Shahida Khawaja and her hospital for breaking the patient doctor confidentiality code. Shame on you Dr Khawaja, shame on you.
The reporter chose to end the report with a veiled threat citing Section 338 of the Pakistan Penal code which basically says that a whoever causes a woman with child whose organs have not been formed, to miscarry is said to cause ‘Isqat-i-Haml’ and is liable to a punishment of a minimum of three years imprisonment if the abortion is performed by the woman’s consent.
We have insulted the life choices of our celebrities many a times, be it Veena Malik’s nude shoot or Shoaib Akhtar’s medical records, giving the reason that the celebrities ask for it by being in the limelight. But what about this incident when it is obvious that Meera is trying hard to keep a personal issue to herself? The reporter not only reported what happened but also speculated to make her come across as a woman of loose morals who has no idea who the father of her unborn baby was. Asking her father-in-law who has been hostile towards her in the past was just adding more masala to an already sordid saga.
If the current lot of journalists resort to the worst form of yellow journalism, no matter what we teach our kids in media schools will be useless because the market tells them that this is the trash that sells. If a market leader with a lot of money like Jang group indulges in this type of sensational and scandalous crap then there is no hope for smaller cash strapped media houses.
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