Media has a vital role to play in raising awareness regarding national issues and highlighting the problems. The platform can also be used to promote a constructive debate that leads to betterment in the society. Electronic media in Pakistan has been growing at a rapid pace since the beginning of 2000. From just a handful of channels the electronic media has now exploded into a massive industry as more and more channels are entering the field. Unfortunately though, with the increase in ‘quantity’ of news channels the ‘quality’ has declined sharply. Prime time bulletins of most news channels prioritize sensationalistic news instead of news that should be given priority as per journalistic values.
Recently, a lawmaker from the ruling party, Waseem Akhtar Sheikh during a 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.
Daily The Patriot has repeatedly raised the issue of lack of ethics in electronic media. 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’.
Pakistan Group of Newspapers and Roze News sensing the issue formulated and implanted its own code of conduct long ago, the purpose of this was to establish norms and practices that promote healthy and ethical journalism instead of sensationalism. This fact was also acknowledged by Federal Minister Ahsan Iqbal who in Roze News program Sachi Baat acknowledged that Roze News is one of the very few channels that focuses on objectivity instead of sensationalism. Other media groups should also follow the example set by Roze News.
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