Saturday, February 28, 2009

Media can fight guns not capital

A gun could be retorted by a pen. This is not just a slogan, but the reality of Pakistan’s media. Journalist Musa Khankhel of Geo TV was shot 35 bullets and beheaded thereafter.

28 year old Musa Khankhel went to Swat to cover Taliban’s winning rally. This was a celebration of Pakistan succumbing to their pressure. A braving journalist who belongs to a country whose Govt. has given up an unconceivable thought for an Indian. Pakistan has always been an army of fundamentalists for Indians. Moreover, after the 26/11 attacks, Pakistani media is being perceived to have been colored in Pakistani colours.

Post- Musa Khankhel’s murder, the fearlessness that Pakistani journalists have shown has given Indian media and journalists, goosebumps. Indian media has always shown Pakistani media as a replication of the mullas. But when they themselves are fighting for Democracy, it’s time for Indian media to look within.

After Mumbai attacks no journalist had the courage to pronounce that the Pakistani attackers were given help in India. On top of it, IB’s report that stated the failure of Navy’s and Coastal guard’s shortcomings, was immediately dumped. The fire of patriotism burned inside the Indian media which when clubbed with State’s untold curb resulted into an unsaid harmony between the two. It was only when L.K. Advani in the Parliament negated the possibility of attacks without indigenous help, that the issue was addressed.

Most of the media houses in India are owned by people who have served as journalists. If we look at the leading news channels, all the proprietors have been journalist by profession. And that’s the reason why media is always mentioned as the fourth pillar of democracy; well proved during emergency. The tag seems to have rusted in the past 34 years now. Also, it has been heavily capitalized which has totally led to profit and wagging tails in front of the Govt. This is when the difference between the struggle of Pakistani media and the great tragedy of Indian media becomes clear.

General Parvez Musharraf was the one who gave a green signal to the broadcast of news channels in Pakistan. Geo News channel was started after this. When in 2001 Agra Summit he met Atal ji, he realised the power of media. I still remember how Musharraf invited all the journalists for breakfast and allowed NDTV to cover it live. Things that Vajpayee couldn’t speak openly and Musharraf wanted to, were finally said in open through media. That was the day when Musharraf and NDTV were most talked about. Immediately after returning to Islamabad he allowed private news channels in Pakistan.

The whole of Geo news channel was trained by the same set of people who trained Aajtak before its launch. I was a part of the team of Aajtak when the training was being given so I had a long association with them. In fact, when the same team was training Geo TV, they used Aajtak training tapes for the same. The tapes had everything form Aajtak’s then popularity to the journalists work after training.

I remember that just before Musharraf’s visit to India, I went to Pakistan where I met Hamid Mir. He was the owner and editor of a newspaper then. This helped me get information from the Pakistan’s side. Also, I called him for interviews, thrice. Hamid Mir said then, if the power of Indian media comes into Pakistan, the Pakistani Govt. would not act autocratic.

After the murder of Musa Khankhel in the Swat valley when Hamid Mir claimed to confront guns with pen. I reminisce the 2001 interview with LET Chief Md. Hafiz Sayeed. I was immensely praised by Arun Puri, owner Aajtak. During that time, the Vajpayee Govt. hinted not to air that interview on the grounds that it would invigorate the already existing terrorism. Arun Puri decided to not only broadcast it, but also released in papera saying- “Aajtak catches Lashkar Chief”.

Times have changed now. The Govt. is hiding its shortcomings and preaching media what to do and what not to. And the media apparently is very eager to learn it from the Govt. This eagerness is a result of the share in Govt. profits. Geo news proved Kasab a Pakistani when the Pakistani Govt. negated the very fact. Geo TV also showed the premise where the whole conspiracy of Mumbai attacks was framed whereas Pakistani Govt. calls it a mere part of the whole massacre.

On the other hand, in India, no news channel has the courage to stand and speak against ministers and put reality in perspective. From bombblasts in Mumbai to the Delhi blasts; Batla House encounter and information regarding people in remand, nothing was looked upon. Only if the Indian media had seen the issues superficially, it would have made a significance difference. But no news channel had the audacity to accuse its own support system, like Pakistan.

The state of Indian media can be well understood by the film “Delhi-6”. The script itself questions the very trustfulness of news channels. In the film, a news channel with its logo, anchor and reporter takes the story forward, which in the end portrays this thinking as a black spot on the society.

In the end of the film, the director has intelligently placed a mirror which reflects all the characters of the film. It signifies that real thief in inside you. Every character looks his/her reflection in the mirror, but here also the news reporter doesn’t turn up to look his reflection. Coincidentally, this particular channel also belongs to a journalist and the employees are also journalists.

In the Indian context, these reporters can walk with a puffed chest and consider Pakistani media as a fledgling. The present day reality of the two media is that, in Pakistan they have to fight guns and face tragedies like that of Musa Khankhel. Whereas in India, they befriend Govt. for profits, sideline the core news and claim their so-called professionalism. It’s interesting to note that in this period of recession when people are losing jobs, media should act responsible but it seems too engrossed in philosophy of cinema and minting money.