Electronic media in Pakistan

The case against conduct of electronic media in Pakistan

Posted on November 17, 2007. Filed under: Chief Justice of Pakistan, Electronic media in Pakistan, Lal Masjid, Martial law |

Cable news just got unplugged in Pakistan. I for one am supporting the government here and will shed no tears for the likes of Talat Hussain, Mushtaq Minhas, Hamid Mir, or Shahid Masood.

I will point out a few instances where, I as a viewer was disturbed by the partisanship, unprofessional attitudes, and loose ethics of the cable news industry in Pakistan. I shouldn’t say ‘in Pakistan’, because these channels were being run from the UAE where they could escape Pakistan’s taxation system. They like to profit from our country but would rather not pay taxes. Ok, I am getting side tracked here. My complaints follow:

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I told you so – imposition of martial law in Pakistan

Posted on November 7, 2007. Filed under: Chief Justice of Pakistan, Electronic media in Pakistan, Enlightened Moderation My Ass, Martial law, Politics |

I am not bragging but I did forsee this one coming. The imposition of martial law seemed imminent even two months ago.  Actually, fellow chai-lover Harris called it first in private conversation with me. We were talking after the Bhagwandas led bench had restored Ch. Iftikhar to the head of the apex court about the possible scenarios developing after that. He thought the CJ was going to over estimate his power on the street and go after Musharraf with a vengeance. That would have forced Musharraf to take stronger measures, read: martial law, to restore the pecking order. His argument was that Pakistanis as a whole are a people given to abusing power. Your age, gender, education, socio-economic background, political leanings, field of influence, …. none of that matters. They will abuse power for personal agendas.

And that is what Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry and his merry court did for months. The ran amok. They put thousands of existing cases on the back burner and decided to become a thorn in Musharraf’s side. Their interests spanned all issues of media interest. If a story was on the news media one day, the court was taking suo moto notice of it on the second day. Be it the flooding and consequent traffic jams on Karachi roads after heavy rainstorms, price of tomatoes, shutting down of terrorist breeding madrassas, and what not. If cable news thought an issue was inflammatory enough, the court thought it was worthy of their interest. The court was infact trying to be popular with the ignorant masses who are swayed by these media hyped issues. I will go in detail of this false hype in the next posting. Seeking popularity by activism is the domain of the politician, not the court.

That president Musharraf ward it off for as long as he did is credit to him. That the ex-Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, brazenly led his motley crew of judges down the path of direct confrontation with the president shows his foolhardiness. Still, I think the president is not without blame in this year of crisis. He has managed to go back on too many promises and estranged too many of us in the silent majority who supported him through the last eight years. We have sat on the sidelines and wondered what exactly kept him from doing the needfull to move the country towards his promised land. Defeats and back paddling on one issue after the other has confused and disheartened the moderate majority of Pakistanis who want a prosperring and peacefull Pakistan. The biggest blow came with the ill advised attempt at removing the CJ. It has been a downward spiral since then. Again, I will compile these issues in a detailed chargesheet against Musharraf here in a post to follow.

And here we are. Two wrongs have made a massive wrong. Sadly, it seems there is not one person of honor and integrity left in the higher echlons of Pakistan. What we have is either dumb asses at best, or manipulative opportunists at worst. Oh, and I told you so.

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Someone please stop these dumb TV reporters from revealing tactical information about Lal Masjid siege

Posted on July 8, 2007. Filed under: Electronic media in Pakistan, Islamabad, Lal Masjid, Stupid people, Terrorism |

Real time reporting of troop movements and tactical positions by the media is a most problemetic issue in my view. Reporters from TV channels, especially Aaj TV, have continually reported on the moment, positions, and tactical preparations of the troops in real time. This information is of absolutely no use to any of the ordinary viewers of the channels’ coverage. To the layman, it doesn’t matter what kind of troops, in what numbers, with what equipment just went towards which quadrant of the facility. To the average house wife, it doesn’t add anything to coverage to know that the vehicles used for tear gas shelling have just recharged and are moving towards Lal Masjid. To the terrorists, it gives all the warning and time in the world to don gas masks or take other protective measures against the effects of the gas. And the revelations about the troop movements and nature of the troops keep getting more and more flabergasting. Why in gods’ name would you reveal the position of snipers on the rooftops of specific buildings. You might as well climb up there and plant a bullet behind his ears yourself, mr reporter.  A sniper can engage target from 100 yards as well as from 500 yards just as well. Let the terrorists guess where they are being targeted from. Don’t reveal the position of snipers so the terrorists can flush them out or force them to move to secondary positions pre-maturely. They see a UAV circling the madrassa at night and all of these bitches start squeeling at once. That one hour flight that was meant to gain crucial intelligence might just have gone to waste because the terrorist can now change positions, even prepare traps for the troops.

Pakistani media whores have screamed at the slightest restriction in access to the battlefield. But such access should be granted as a privellege dependent upon their common sense. Geraldo Riviera, reporting for Fox News during the US invasion of Iraq, was removed from the country and sent back immediately following one instance of allegedly revealing the positions of some US troops by drawing a map on the sand. Reporters from Aaj and Geo have gone miles beyond that kind of revealing. They have pointed out specific buildings and types of troops. They have reported on troop moments that took away the element of surprise and endangered the troops. They have pointed out government tactics and operations.

I probably shouldn’t say this but the reporters did point out the fact that commandos were laying explosive charges along the walls of the madrassa and the firing from all directions on the madrassa was just a diversion. Could this have caused the incident where the SSG CO was critically wounded along with another officer. I’ll leave this investigation to the authorities. But with the militants being in constant telephonic contact with media and their supporters outside, this hypothesis does not seem a stretch.

At this point the terrorists have better intelligence about the movements of the troops outside, than the troops do about the terrorists inside the buildings.

I am not going to let the military get off scott free here either. They should have clamped down on this the first time this sort of thing happened. Where the fuck is ISPR. Isn’t there one officer who has seen this sort of coverage and felt uneasy about it. The men who fight under one are the officer’s responsibility. How can everyone involved be playing such a loose game here. This sort of carelessness by the media might end up costing many lives of the troops and the people inside when and if an operation is launced to enter the madrassa.

Media should be free to report on the event, but not on the tactics and operations of the troops trying to put an end to this. None of this reporting is adding anything to the home viewer. All they are doing is acting as the eyes and ears of the terrorists inside.

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Some observations of GEOs’ coverage of the CJP rally in Lahore

Posted on May 6, 2007. Filed under: Chief Justice of Pakistan, Electronic media in Pakistan |

I have spent the better part of this saturday, dos equis (viva mexico) and chicken tikka in hand, eyes glued to GEOs’ coverage of the Chief Justices’ 24-hour journey from Islamabad down the GT road to Lahore. There is a lot to be said about the process and spectacle that should have been an essentially constitutional issue. But right now I have a couple of observations about the tv coverage of the event.

  • Firstly, kudos to Geo for giving precedence to this event over regular programming.
  • Geo should seriously think about acquiring a helicopter or two to cover such events from the air and give its subscribers a birds eye view. We could use that perspective. In the short term maybe they can charter such aircraft.
  • There was evidence of fatigue in the Geo production teams.
  • At times the newscasters/hosts came back from commercial breaks only to send us back on commercial breaks without uttering a word.
  • At a couple of other instances the programme would come back and the cameras catch the hosts anawares and not ready to be on air.
  • Still on other occasions the breaks would run a lot longer than usual with the Geo graphics being played on a loop. I am guessing this was caused to prevent the above two scenarios.
  • One suggestion I have for such instances would have been to shift the viewers to the cameras accompanying the CJ or at location in Lahore, even without the camera team saying anything. The event was powerful and interesting on its own and just some raw camera coverage would have brought that ambience home to the viewers.
  • For an event that lasted hours, there was a paucity of video clips and the same clips was being looped on itself tens of times for many hours.
  • I don’t know if Geo has tv Vans with uplinking ability as they do in western countries. That would have helped in providing us the atmosphere on the road live. If they do maybe such assets could be used more effectively.

This is slightly above nitpicking but its the little things that make for the highest quality product. Kudos to Geo for having the stamina to hang in there for the duration of such a marathon event, especially when it seems to have dragged on for much longer than expected.

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