Man has been gifted with an insatiable curiosity, indomitable will, limitless speaking and writing skills, and other creative propensities. Being a social animal, he does not live alone as he depends on others for fulfilling his various needs. This dependence on others for sustaining life on this planet has given birth to language, family, tribe, village, society, city, province and country. For satisfying the curiosity to know more and more about other fellow beings, locality and the world, man has invented press, print and electronic media, including social media.
The power of the press, print and electronic media is an established truth. With the power of the press, many nations of the world have shattered the chains of slavery and achieved independence from colonial powers. Many nations have reached the acme of progress and prosperity by using the press and media positively, responsibly and productively. In the subcontinent, Sir Syed Ahmad Khan’s Scientific Society and Tahzibul-Akhlaq, Abdul Halim Sharar’s Muhazzab, Maulana Muhammad Ali Johar’s Comrade and Hamdard, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad’s Al-Hilal , Maulana Zafar Ali Khan’s Zamindar, Hameed Nizami’s Nawa-i-Waqt, Dawn founded by Quaid-e-Azam and Pakistan Times by Mian Iftikhar are the names of some newspapers and magazines which have played a pivotal role in the creation of Pakistan. With the mighty power of press, these great Muslim leaders, writers, thinkers and journalists defeated the British Raj by educating, informing and guiding the Muslims of the subcontinent.
It is also a fact that, now, our world has turned into a global village due to the different channels of mass communication. Due to this, an information revolution has taken place. All the geographical boundaries have been removed and there are no more iron curtains in the world. The people of the world have not only become more informed but also addicted to the media, including print, electronic and social. There is a cultivation theory proposed by George Gerbner which suggests that “TV is responsible for shaping, or ‘cultivating’ viewers’ conceptions of social reality”. So, all the powerful and technologically advanced countries like America, England, France, Russia, etc., are using the media to control the people of the world by changing their ideas, behaviour and attitude. The media has also become an important part of Psychological Warfare, which, is also called a fifth generation war. According to Yuri Bezmenov (former KGB agent) and author of Deception Was My Job, “the media has tremendous power. Who gave them this power ? They have the power to ‘Rape your mind'”.
Napoleon Bonaparte also aptly said, “Four hostile newspapers are more to be feared than a thousand bayonets”. In this age of mass communication and computerised world, Julian Paul Assange , an Austrian-Ecuadoran computer programmer and the founder of WikiLeaks, has exposed the dark face and clandestine activities of America in the countries of the world through WikiLeaks. This exposure forced America to tender apologies to England and other countries for indulging in clandestine activities in their countries. Edward Joseph Snowden, former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the National Security Agency employee, has also leaked classified information from the National Security Agency (NSA) to journalists Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras and Ewen MacAskill. “His disclosures revealed numerous global surveillance programs, many run by the NSA and the Five Eyes Intelligence Alliance with the cooperation of telecommunication companies and European governments”. Snowden’s disclosures have unmasked many countries, including America, that are breaking privacy rights of their people.
No true democracy can flourish in a country without a free and responsible media. It becomes a watchdog in a democratic country as it not only appreciates the good works of the government but also criticizes its bad and anti-people policies. It also exposes corruption in the system. The Watergate scandal’s investigative coverage by The Washington Post, forced President Richard Nixon to resign in 1974. Now, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists have come out with the Panama Leaks and Paradise Papers which have revealed the corruption of many powerful people and rulers of the world, including Nawaz Sharif and his family.
In Pakistan, the media, especially electronic, is very popular. There are around 36 TV channels in Pakistan. They are means of informing the public. Pakistanis love to watch political talk shows. This is good for Pakistani society and democracy. Through these talk shows, a culture of free debate and discussion is developing in society. These shows are also informing, educating and guiding the people of Pakistan.
But, there are also some negative things which are having pernicious effects on the people. Due to the success and power of the media , many businessmen, exploiters, corrupt people, anchors and managers with no background in journalism, have joined the electronic media world. Their sole purpose is quick and easy money and fame. Some corrupt people want to cover their corruption through this powerful tool. Rasul Bakhsh Rais, a columnist, writes : “Investigative journalism is a weaker part of the profession for obvious reasons of big personal risks and a general apathy towards powerful new ‘elites’ that have become fabulously rich by selling education, fake degrees or running industries. In many cases, a channel or channels have become a political means of protection, intimidation and influence peddling to cover up the questionable wealth of owners. There are also other motives, agendas and powerful political interests behind some media houses”.
There are many anchors who are not well-read, professional or have research experience. They do not carry out serious investigative reporting. They just use sensationalism to get popularity among the people. While, some anchors are anti-government. They are exposing the corruption of the PML-N government. The government ministers, officials and the PML-N’s supporters dislike them. So, there is a division in the media world in Pakistan. Some TV channels are pro-government. They just want to get more and more ads from the government. Anti-government TV channels suffer because the government does not give them ads.
Dr. Shahid Masood, a famous TV ‘anchor’, is not only against the PML-N government but also the PPP government in Sindh. He openly declares that the ruling elite is the real enemy of democracy and Pakistan. Due to his views, his talk show is very popular among the people of Pakistan. Sometimes, he also creates sensationalism by breaking news. After the rape and murder of Zainab in Kasur, Dr. Shahid Masood has triggered fear and anxiety with his sensational disclosure that Imran Ali, the man arrested for the rape and murder of little Zainab, is a member of a larger network of paedophiles that is working in Pakistan and other countries. In Pakistan, powerful people, including one federal minister, are running and protecting this nefarious business. He also claimed that Imran had more than 37 local and foreign currency accounts. He also appealed to the Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar to take notice of these revelations. The chief justice summoned him to the court the next day where Dr. Masood gave the chief justice some account numbers and the name of a federal minister involved in this racket of child abuse in Kasur. The next day the State Bank of Pakistan announced that Imran Ali had no account.
Then, while hearing the suo motu case of the rape and murder of Zainab at the Lahore Registry of the Supreme Court, Mian Saqib Nisar formed a joint investigation team to probe the claims of Shahid Masood, regarding Imran Ali, the prime suspect in Zainab case. He said the JIT headed by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) Director General Bashir Memon would look into the claims made by the anchor.
If the claims of Dr. Shahid Masood prove true, then it will be a very big news in the history of the Pakistani media. It would increase the image and popularity of Dr. Shahid Masood among the people many times over. But, if the news proves fake, then the Supreme Court should take stern action against the anchor. However, one has to wait and see how this case plays itself out, and whether it has any seminal effect on the conduct of the putative pundits in the media.