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Daily News Analysis

On the beat: Pakistan’s cops and robbers (oops sorry) reporters!

Crescent International

The deteriorating ethics of most Pakistani journalists have tarnished the once-noble profession and turned it into a blackmailing tool at the behest of their foreign masters. The social fabric has been messed up and turned into a veritable zoo. The attack on TV anchor Hamid Mir has brought this out clearly.

Islamabad, Crescent-online
Tuesday April 22, 2014, 21:07 DST

The April 19 attack in Karachi on a well-known Pakistani television anchor Hamid Mir has turned into a high stakes drama. Within hours of the attack on Mir, his younger brother Amir Mir, also a journalist, went on television to blame the Director of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Lt Gen. Zaheerul Islam for the attack.

While it cannot be ruled out that the ISI was involved, it takes a leap of faith to make such a bold accusation and name the ISI chief directly without even waiting for a proper investigation. Obviously, the lines are clearly drawn and each side has fortified their barricades.

The government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has ordered a judicial inquiry into the attack and appointed a three-member committee of Supreme Court judges. The matter has even been debated in the Senate with opposing factions taking potshots at each other and at various institutions.

Some observers have opined that if the ISI were involved, they would have done a better job than merely hitting Mir in the stomach and legs. One hopes ISI operatives would be better trained.

Quite aside from the ISI’s technical competence/incompetence, why is there is so much noise about the attack on Mir when other journalists have also been killed without receiving even a tenth of the publicity given to him?

As Adnan Rehmat wrote in his opinion piece in the Karachi-based Dawn today, journalists Abrar Tanoli, Ayub Khattak, Shan Dahar, Bakhtaj Ali and Razik Baloch were also killed in the last 12 months but few even in the 18,000-strong journalistic fraternity know who these lost souls were. There were others too, linked with the media, that were killed: Waqas Aziz, Khalid Khan and Ashraf Arain.

Unfortunately there has been massive deterioration of morals and ethics in Pakistan in recent years. Corruption has reached dizzying heights and television networks have become purveyors of Western thought and filth.

The police in Pakistan were known and are still known to be thoroughly corrupt. Politicians hound the few honest officers because they would expose corruption in the ranks of the rulers. Yet whenever there is any unpleasant development, politicians are quick to finger the police.

In recent years, journalists have also joined the ranks of the most corrupt people in Pakistan. If the police were known for blackmailing people, journalists are even worse. This is not to suggest that there are no honest journalists in Pakistan but they are few and far between.

We do not have to rely on Wikileaks to know that the American embassy in Islamabad had most journalists on its payroll and could get them to do what it wanted in exchange for a mere invitation to the embassy function.

Something even worse has happened in the media business in the last 10-15 years. With the opening of the media, all kinds of unsavory characters have entered the field.

Geo, the television network for which Hamid Mir works, has been accused of taking money from the US and India. Top Geo executives reside in Dubai and refuse to answer these allegations.

Even Hamid Mir is viewed as an “Indian agent”. There are photos of him on the Internet depicting him as a Hindu Sadhu (priest). True, his detractors have posted these photos but the network has not come clean in explaining its links with India or the US. Figures of $60 million have been mentioned as the amount taken from the US in one instance. How much money has India or Indian businessmen paid to Geo?

Some journalists and TV anchors have also pointed to Indian media’s excessive coverage of the attack on Mir. Such exposure probably would not be accorded to even senior Indian politicians.

Pakistan’s journalistic fraternity is badly fractured. There are different factions claiming to represent the same group, such as the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) that has three factions. Obviously, different vested interest groups are backing each faction.

Most journalists have been bought by one group or another and they are also not above taking money—or their network’s owners—from the enemies of Pakistan. This is the sad reality of journalism in Pakistan. Many journalists get exorbitant salaries and have been paid massive amounts from other sources as well.

Journalism used to be a noble profession; unfortunately some have turned it into prostitution. If journalists take such liberty with facts and do not desist from making scandalous allegations, then there is bound to be reaction from the other side.

This is not to justify attacks on journalists or their killing but the fact is that when journalists do not uphold any ethical standards and are prepared to prostitute themselves, then they should not complain when there is a blowback.

The sad fact is that Hamid Mir’s episode is not likely to lead to any introspection on the part of the journalists and media anchors. If anything, attitudes will harden and there are likely to be even more gruesome episodes. Pakistani society is turning into a jungle where only the strongest will survive.


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