Media bringing a positive shift in Pakistan’s society1,401 views
Exclusively written by: Durdana Najam
Media has played a significant role in the formation of a new attitude in Pakistan. The country has opened up. It has attained a progressive aura. The traditional gap between the rulers and the people has shrunk to such an extent that governments are forced to change their way of working to sustain their credibility. In countries like Pakistan where the institution of accountability has always remained weak and governments have been blamed for keeping the public deliberately uneducated is no more an applicable theory. Media has taken up the responsibility of exposing the corrupt leaders in politics or in any other institution. Because of its ubiquity a single exposure of a disorder in the public sphere, spreads like fire across the country. In no time, the illiterate people become aware of the moss gathered around them with the result that if in the future elections are held in free and impartial manner, we might find many leading politicians leaving politics for good.
A very interesting trend has been observed on the social media recently in the wake of Paris attack. The Facebook’s option to paint one’s display picture in the colour of France’s flag brought out a healthy discussion between people supporting the cause against the Islamic State and those criticising the west over its hypocrisy to ignore the atrocities meted out by Israel on the Palestinians stranded in Gaza. One group was bashing the other for giving space to the west whose wrong policies in combating terrorism has brought the world to this pass while the other side was trying to make a case that there can be no comparison between the acts of violence. It was not polarization of Pakistani society, as many critics tend to label it. In fact, it was a clear demarcation between two sets of people taking a position on different ideas with supportive evidence. If one comes to think of it, both the groups were right. Palestine has been more under the worst form of terrorism than any other country but it finds little or no support among the western countries hamstrung to Israel’s settlement policy. Similarly, terrorism has become global. Every country is experiencing its 9/11. The date has become the hallmark of merciless killing of innocent human beings at the hands of terrorists. Both the condemnations were right, it might have saddled its proponents into competing positions, but the target of their anger was singular—terrorism.
I had a chance to teach in one of the leading universities of Pakistan. Being expensive children from the upper class could get admission in it. Most of the students showed little or no interest in books. On a close inquiry, as to why they were studying if books or studies, did not inspire them, the reply was of the usual stuff; they were paying to buy a degree. However, the remarkable thing about these students was their grip on general knowledge. They were not only technology savvy. They also knew about the happenings around the world on the tip of their fingers. They were interpreting scenarios and recasting them into the mould of their own perspective. They were sensitive to the sectarian crisis in Pakistan. I had the Sunnies, the Shias and the Ahmedies in the class. All of them shared each other’s grief. This sensitivity and knowledge was the result of the phenomenal newsgathering and disseminating potential of social media and other 24/7 media sources such as TV, mobiles, news applications etc. These kids are no more under the influence of a closed network of people; the parents, siblings and the clerics hired to teach Koran. They have at their disposal a wider arena to wage the battle of mind and heart. If only the government could provide internet facility in the rural areas and give the Information Industry in Pakistan the right impetus both in cash and motivation, the nation will be on a new trajectory of learning.
Media faces its own identity crises in countries like Pakistan vying to get rid of traditional mind-set while evolving modern values. Still finding its way, it is at times sensationalism and another utter blackmailing that takes over the mores of media. For years Pakistan media has been gagged by the military dictators that ruled the country for almost 30 years, keeping many journalists underpaid and professionally constrained. Therefore, when media opened up and lent opportunities, the once suppressed profession, spread out, flaunting rules and regulations. It was difficult even for the media outlets to standardize style, pattern or trend. However, the growing pressure of sane voices and awareness in the government about media’s inevitable presence, media will find its identity and maturity in due course. For the time being Pakistan may have 50 percent illiteracy but its people are sounder and enlightened due to the progressive media policies of the government.
The writer is a Special Correspondent of NewsLens Pakistan and was former Assistant Editor Daily Times Lahore. She can be reached at email@example.com