KARACHI, (June 12, 2021): Senior journalists are of view that reporting priorities in the Pakistan media industry are dictated by commercial interests rather human rights or public good.
Speaking at an interfaith harmony workshop here, in a session on marginalized communities and the media’s role, the speakers said the media is the new big industry where a news item’s commercial marketability determines its worthiness. Spiced up stories that sync with popular taste and help boost commercial ratings make the most saleable pieces, the speakers added.
President Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), Shahzada Zulfiqar, said there were instances in the past where the mainstream media preferred to give airtime to a politician’s private affairs in Punjab rather than an incident of mass killing in Balochistan, referring to the Mastung incident in which around 130 people were killed in a deadly suicide blast in Jul 2018.
Citing the example Shahzada Zulfiqar added that only a day after the tragic incident, the mainstream media began to cover the story, and that too after the army chief announced to attend the funerals in Quetta.
Journalist and social media activist Veengas said that usually, the minorities get coverage only when they get persecuted or killed. On a normal day, a story on the plight of minorities does not make a saleable story in the Pakistani news market, she said.
At a separate session of the workshop, freedom of expression was discussed by a panel of senior journalists Wusatullah Khan and Sabookh Syed.
Wusatullah Khan was of view that society has an inherent tendency to curtail people’s right to free expression on different pretexts. Even the scanty freedoms that exist in some form in the country are also reserved for the dominant communities. The members of minority groups have no say in the national discourse, he said.
Expressing his view on the very crucial topic, the founding director of IBC News, Sabookh Syed, said that in Pakistan critical voices are muffled and questions are turned down on the grounds of decency, religious sensitivity, or national security. While this perilous tradition may create some illusion of normalcy for the powerful, in the long run, it only breeds more resentment beneath the surface, he said. Suffocating environments make explosive situations because a society devoid of outlets for free expression ultimately implodes in a violent way.
A panel of religious scholars also discussed interfaith relations. Maulana Syed Ahmed Binori said Islam was spread all over the world due to the message of peace and tolerance. He said Pakistan is a diverse country with many religions and cultures. Commenting on the issue of forced conversion of Hindus to the Muslim faith, Maulana Binori said there was no compulsion in Islam, and that the Islamic faith prohibits forced conversions.
Likewise, Mufti Faisal Japanwala opined that all religions are equally sacrosanct, and no individual has the right to insult any religion. Insulting any faith is blasphemous, he said.
The two-day training and educational workshop were organized by the Pak Institute for Peace Studies – a research and advocacy think tank working on peace and security in Pakistan.