By Zubeida Mustafa
True, we have politicians – in the government and in opposition – who have failed to display a measure of competence, integrity and statesmanship. We have an army which sucks up a huge chunk of our resources and yet has not provided us the security one could rightly expect from it. We have economic managers who have been unable or unwilling to shape the national economy in a way as to bring some relief to the people. All this is bad enough.
But does that mean that the media should also join forces with the purveyors of the ills that the country is suffering from to become a 24/7 perpetrator of a sense of hopelessness and helplessness. It has been argued, and very convincingly too, that the media’s prime responsibility is to inform and educate. By concealing information the media will only harm the country as happened in the past when the governments of the day muzzled the press.
It would be ridiculous to argue for information to be concealed from the public because it is bad. People must be told what is happening to pre-empt speculation and rumours. But what is questionable is the manner in which this information is conveyed. If the idea is to inform the viewer and hopefully to also educate him, it can be done without packaging the news with a lot of excitement and sensationalism. These are unnecessary frills. Probably television channels feel these frills are essential to attract a big viewership – after all every channel in Pakistan is competing with over 50 others – and thus earn revenues by grabbing ads. But is it ethical to resort to such unethical tactics for purely monetary gains?