Panama, journalism and search for moral [wo]men

On tenterhooks, Pakistan awaited Supreme Court’s judgement in Panama Papers case against the Sharifs. In a country beset by contradictions, as on most issues, the mood on the street in this case too, swings from one extreme to another.

The case has highlighted need for social justice and financial accountability of elected public officials. A single verdict will not change the mind-numbingly sorry state-of-affairs, at say, the level of the lower judiciary.

Similarly, Pakistan has a long way to go when it comes to financial accountability of its elected public officials. No one party is an exception.

More importantly, Panama Papers has highlighted what can be achieved through ethical investigative journalism.

Unfortunately, print media [yes, an industry that still exists] in Pakistan today is a lot of statement-based news stories and government-issued press releases.

The rise of electronic media in Pakistan was set on a flawed foundation. A number of licenses were issued by the Pemra during Musharraf government. Many who joined electronic media lacked relevant professional training. What we saw in the years to come and that continues till date was a rat race for ratings. Almost all news, however trivial, was broadcast as “breaking news” and “exclusive” reports were aired on multiple channels. To serious viewers, the continuous chest thumping is nauseating.

Indeed, the relatively freer press also helped Musharraf highlight to the West the strength of opposition he was facing from within Pakistan for his support to the Bush Administration. This ultimately helped him consolidate and prolong his hold on power.

Even in case of coverage of military operations inside the country, reports relied on either ISPR handouts or stories filed by embedded journalists. The military initially played whack-a-mole and later, we kept hearing about unending tallies of terrorists killed, while the security situation on the ground changed little, and for long. Media’s silence at large throughout over a decade remained deafening.

Though news anchors dominate the current media landscape, in the last few years, digital journalism has managed to occupy some space. The situation when it comes to digital journalism is even more alarming. While many news anchors have managed to stay relevant by engaging in regular shouting matches on air, most young digital journalists and bloggers have found ways to create their own nuisance value.

Today many young bloggers write on issues ranging from women rights to religion without any in-depth study or qualification, with the same intention and frequency as they change and upload their Facebook pictures. For the same reason most such writings usually revolve heavily around the authors themselves.

These click-baits usually have a shelf life of a day or two. The kerfuffle on the blogosphere ends usually without helping the broader debate surrounding a particular issue.

Pakistan undoubtedly…

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