The recent terror wave has shocked the entire nation with close to hundred people martyred in a series of terror attacks. The attacks hit multiple cities including all four provincial capitals in addition to Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and the bombing at shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in Sehwan Sharif.
The way these incidents were covered by the electronic media was very unfortunate, particularly after the blast at Sehwan Sharif that resulted in at least 80 deaths. Newscasters on various channels were seen ‘shouting’ at the top of their voices. Gruesome footages were aired showing people walling and crying. Few channels went to the extent of showing a highly disturbing clip of an old man crying at a local hospital; with the person holding the camera asking him whether he is crying because he lost his children.
Similarly conflicting news’ were aired, one channel claimed that the blast was not a suicide bombing but it was a planted device. Few minutes later another anchor on the same channel claimed that it was a suicide bombing. The death toll and injury toll was also conflicting. In the case of a tragedy media groups need to be a lot more careful in the way they disseminate information. There is literally no need whatsoever to air unconfirmed news, moreover ‘analysis’ and ‘conflicting reports’ should never be aired as news. Moreover, like already pointed ‘shouting’ in the face of a disaster is highly unethical, this creates panic and a sense of fear.
Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) is also conducting training sessions for journalists to raise awareness regarding the code of conduct. The step by PEMRA is a good move as very few are aware of the extensive code of conduct of PEMRA. At the same time the authority should also launch awareness campaigns among the public regarding the code of conduct so they know what steps to take in case any clause of the said code is violated.
Apart from PEMRA, media houses should also train their employees on ethical practices in the field of journalism. If you compare the coverage of any untoward incident by a Pakistani news channel and a European channel, the difference will be obvious. Foreign media groups lay great emphasis on treating terror incidents with great care. Unless media groups and the relevant regulatory bodies taken it upon themselves to promote ethical journalism, the situation won’t improve. Pakistani electronic media industry is no more in the infancy stage and hence needs to be a lot more responsible.
In this regard the code of conduct implemented by Pakistan Group of Newspapers and Roze News is an excellent initiative. The detailed code of conduct lays great emphasis on sanctity of Islam, patriotism and responsible journalism. Apart from such code of conducts, training courses should be conducted for journalists by their respective organizations.
Moreover, the quality of education being imparted by universities offering media & communication studies courses needs to improve a lot. Unless these basic steps are taken the quality of content and the way it is being delivered.
Media groups should conduct training courses to educate employees.
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