Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PMLN)’s lawmaker Waseem Akhtar Sheikh during a recent meeting of the National Assembly Standing Committee on Information, Broadcasting and National Heritage raised the issue of baseless allegations being hurled at lawmakers by electronic media.
Speaking during the meeting the lawmakers were of the view that it has become routine for the electronic media to conduct character assassinations and added that we have families and we have to marry off our daughters in respectable families. We cannot afford to have baseless accusations levelled against us, because once that happens, it is impossible to convince people, especially families that there is no truth to the allegations.
The complaint of Waseem Akhtar Sheikh is legitimate, couple of weeks ago after the tragic crash of flight PK-661 in which all 48-onboard were killed we (Daily The Patriot) raised the issue in one of our editorials of how the electronic media displayed complete insensitivity in its coverage of the crash.
In the race for ratings media groups trampled upon even basic journalistic ethics. It appeared the tragic accident had given these rating-hungry news channels a chance to outdo their competitors. Newscasters were seen shouting at the top of their voices as they announced every update; however basic journalistic principles suggest that in the case of a tragedy the tone of a newscaster should be somber. For many years the blunders and unethical-coverage of electronic media was overlooked citing the fact that private television channels were introduced in Pakistan quite late and they need time to learn. However instead of learning media houses are declining in terms of news ethics at a rapid pace. It is not a surprise that now even the public has become vocal in its criticism of certain practices employed by electronic media for the sake of ‘ratings’.
If it wasn’t for the work done by Chairman, Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) Absar Alam over the past year, the coverage would have been even worse. The fear of a PEMRA notice in case of violations of the bodies’ code of conduct has made news channels somewhat cautious but even that doesn’t seem to discourage them from broadcasting outright unethical content.
The trend of fact checking news has gone completely out of trend; stories are run based on gossip on social networking sites. Fake quotes and statements often become part of news bulletins as legitimate news.
There is a serious need to focus on objective reporting instead of flashy news that offers little for the audience. Before the ban on Indian content by PEMRA even prime time news bulletins gave the look of a Bollywood program with tons of songs and dialogues of Indian movies being made part of ‘news’.
Apart from media houses, universities and institutes teaching journalism, media studies, communication studies or any related discipline are also to blame for producing graduates who are unaware of even the ethics of their own profession. The issue is of a very serious nature and media bigwigs, the various regulatory bodies and educational institutes must sit together and formulate some kind of framework to ensure that journalists are better trained and so that such insensitivity can be avoided.
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