Saturday, April 16, 2011

Pakistani media in bed with khaki

We may not know it but what we contribute to the nation as journalists is called ‘embedded journalism. Like our text books, our headlines are full of filth against politicians or, to be precise, against anyone who is not wearing ‘khaki’. The media coverage against non-khakis has created a perception that associates every negative thing with civilian leadership. With term ‘corruption’ in Pakistani context politicians come to mind, ‘traitor’ reminds one of Pakistan’s nationalist leaders, ‘luxury and riches’ refer to the elected prime minister's office and his cabinet, ‘CIA agent’ stands for a top rank civilian leader and ‘sex scandals’ are considered as trade mark of politicians.
Contrary to this, media gurus overwhelm their audience with political expediencies and ideologies that serve the interests of one institution and its chiefs, military and generals. Every time, they refer to a serving general as a ‘thoroughly professional soldier. When a serving general's tenure is extended, media will not go with a headline or a sentence telling the masses that the generals are blackmailing the weak civilian leadership. Rather they try to convince the audience by telling that “the sensitive nature of security situation required the general to retain his position for a couple of few more years. In talks with the CIA, the media will, for example, say: “ISI gave a tough message on drone attacks to its US counterpart.”
The apparently independent but ‘embedded’ in the true sense,  journalists and columnists coin all possible positive terms for the military and its managers. Raise a question on embezzlement in the forces and the embedded media will argue: “No, military has its own accountability system and its very professional,” as if the civilian government has no accountability. The term ‘discipline’ for example is used only for the military in Pakistan. “Bravery”, “patriotism”, “martyrdom”, “honesty”, and ‘victory” are some other characteristics that can define only military leadership in Pakistan. In case of army's misdeeds, media concentrates on planted stories of heroic deeds. Kargil misadventure, ‘highjacking’ of General Musharraf's plane, and military’s role in Afghanistan or Kashmir are some of the examples where media in general follows the Khakis’s version of the events. Columnists sometime condemn some ambitious generals when they die or lose power but their wise words also tell the masses that the new general is different from the previous one.
The military code in media is so much dominant that it demonizes the best qualities of democracy. The disagreement among politicians on an issue in Pakistan is, for example, considered a prelude to a change in power instead of showing it as a democratic value. The hot debates on the floor of the House are termed as ‘fish market’ and there is no question mark to the hushed corps commanders' meetings, approving its privacy and secrecy even if they are cooking a big scheme against the elected government.
A huge stuff in media, especially the opinion pages and talk shows, are considered incomplete without an ex-military man as an expert. Their contributions are welcome but they go unchecked in their description of facts. That reminds of the ‘embedded story telling practice’--a selective sort of journalism seen in US media coverage of Iraq and Afghanistan wars. In Pakistan, however, embedded journalism is applied to every theme and story to protect its defense, honor and superiority. 

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