When it comes to the role of media – be it print, electronic or digital – the discussion more often than not delves into whether it is a tool that ought to be used to unite a society or encourage diversity of opinion bordering on healthy dissent. Recently local media outlets and activists gathered to emphasize on the role of Pakistani media to ‘knit the nation together’ – which is, undoubtedly, a well-intended suggestion but there’s a lot more to the picture that remains obfuscated from general view. For starters, media in Pakistan should be at the point where camaraderie is indeed present but disagreement is received constructively as well.
Ours is a sticky scenario: There is ample political strife in the face of scanty tolerance. Unfortunately, our media – whether mainstream or the little alternatives that we have – has not exactly done a commendable job at remaining composed and neutral while handling national dilemmas. If anything, local media channels have viewed these situations as opportunities to make quick bucks. Similarly, our media still lags behind – quite embarrassingly so – in practicing the very basic tenets of common decency and ethics. A nation cannot be united when its self-proclaimed journalists choose to generate revenue out of tragedies.
The emphasis here should be on our media’s role to relay honest views that the national audience should hear – whether it fancies it or not. Coddling a society’s conventional perspectives may bring the likeminded together but it does not help it in making social progress. By putting organizational bias aside, an independent media with such a huge political landscape like ours should place commercial interest and sensationalism as secondary, and objective journalism as primary. Our media is perhaps the most vocal institution in our country and it would be even more essential once these amendments are made.