On the 13th of July the news channels across Pakistan started flashing the news of a 22 year old trainee nurse, who jumps off the balcony of medical college and was found badly injured, her injury suggesting sexual assault. In a case of sexual assault, rape or attempted rape across the world media ethics demand that the identity of such victims be kept undisclosed. On the contrary the TV news channels across the country blasted not only the face of the victim here but also her name and religion, and like that was not enough they continued to run the news flick, with “breaking news” flashing in the brightest of the red, every few minutes for almost 2 days in a row till the time the face and name of the victim was not deep embedded in the memory of every single viewer of the channel, it was only than that they came to some senses and started to blur out the victim’s face.
Soon after the incident only a few days later the ever efficient local news channels found another news to break in flashing red headlines. On 28th of July 2010 a passenger airliner crashed into the hills of Margalla, in Islamabad in the early hours of the morning. In the haste to be the first to break the news some channels started off by reporting the incident as a helicopter crash, few minutes later on the same channel the crash was reported to be of a small aircraft carrying 55 passengers. It was only around 20 minutes later that the crash was described to be that of a passenger Airbus carrying over 150 passengers. but the irresponsible and unethical reporting doesn’t end here. News channels started claiming 40 survivors from the crash, but the footage they aired, showed the plain disintegrated, into tiny bits, not even a chair was seen whole and undamaged. Anyone with the slightest sense or logic would not believe that there could be any survivors when the plane its self is in tiny bits and pieces, but maybe because the news channels wanted to keep its viewers hooked, in hope, false hope that someone may just be found alive they continues to say there were survivors, at least 5 of them they claimed until after over six hours which is when they finally admitted there were none. A detailed account of irresponsible reporting of the day can be read in this blog here
The Tv News coverage of recent floods, the biggest natural disaster to hit Pakistan , also has been equally irresponsible. People crying is misery, and pain being showed on the loop again and again. Rather than focusing on the extent of the issue the raw face of misery the floods have dawned upon the people is being broadcasted, faces filled with tears and misery, sound of cries pleads, backed up with a sad dramatic music. But the stories of courage, or narrating the real extent of the issue, highlighting the long term troubles and challenges the recent floods has placed for us are all in the back ground somewhere. The main focus of every single news channel today is to air the misery of the people, because it is easy at times like these to go in with a mic and shove it into the face of an affected person and get an emotionally charged bit of video which they can throw in the face of the audience to cash their emotions and have their attention.
In yet another case of insensitive unethical attitude of our TV News channels, three days back a video of a brutal murder of two brothers in Sialkot appeared on a news channel. The video was so graphic that I couldn’t bear watching it till the end, even a few seconds of the footage was too disturbing for most of the audience but the video was run all day almost on the loop first on one news channel and since two days on all the other news channels. Since three days when ever I try to turn to the news all I see is that heartbreaking, gruesome video, running on the loop at every news channel I flip forcing me to keep the idiot box shut silent.
every time a bomb goes off the image of a severed head gangling from the strands of blood soaked hair, from the hand of a police person pops up on out TV screens, the head which is said to be of the suicide bomber almost always turns to be that of a victim. The blood splashed coming out of the TV screens, the cries piercing through the heart, the smell of charred flesh exposing us to too much of violence, violence which is breaking us apart, shattering our soul, violence which is undermining the core issues narrowing the extent of the problem, cutting short the bigger picture, and shifting the focus on the misery of one man, one person, one entity. While the humanity on stake, the crippled stale of law informant, poverty, crime, issues of that of the common people, and their future, which you and me should be pondering upon today are simply burred out of focus. Is this what we call a responsible media ?