One of the most important things that Musharraf did during his era was giving the media its much needed freedom.

One of the reasons I believe this took so long was because, for most of our history, we have been under dictatorial rule and dictators generally do not like people pointing fingers at them or being held to account. The irony however, is that media was given freedom in Pakistan by a dictator.

The fourth pillar of state

There are three pillars of the state, namely:

  • Government
  • Legislature
  • Judiciary

In addition to this, the Media is often referred to as the fourth pillar of the state and is considered to be the most powerful one. In today’s world, the more media coverage an individual, group, or issue gets, the more attention they garner.

It seems the media today has the power to make or break a person, no matter who he is!

Independent media, dependent us

Today everything we learn is from the media, be it television, the internet or the newspapers. And today the people of the media are free to say anything they want. This in turn gives them the power to make us believe almost ANYTHING!

Let me give you an example. I am sure all you Karachiites remember that a couple of years back one of the popular TV channels ran a ticker stating that MQM leader Farooq Sattar had been killed. I am sure you all also remember what happened right after that. In less than an hour, panic spread and the whole city came to a standstill. I remember I was at work and left everything as is and hurried back home battling the traffic jam. It turned out that the news was not true and Farooq Sattar come on TV and announced that he was okay.

The amazing thing here is that there was no proper accountability for this mistake.

This is just a small example of the power the media wields today in Pakistan. They basically have a free hand at controlling people’s minds and opinions.

If you have been following the political situation in Pakistan for the past month you will have noticed the clear bias in our media. One major channel is so pro-government that they portray them as angels and there is not a word criticism against them. The other is so pro-protestors that they can’t find fault in anything this side is doing.

This polarization clearly indicates that our media is up for sale to the highest bidder which is another issue that needs to be addressed when you have an independent media.

There is a joke going around on social media that I would like to share with you here which hits the nail right on the head.

“When you watch GEO it seems as if the protestors are only a few hundred and are about to disperse in a few minutes.

When you watch ARY it seems that the whole of Pakistan is on the streets and the government is going to fall in a few minutes.

And if you watch PTV it seems as if Pakistan is a huge fertile land and we are all farmers who are going to farm it.”

It loses a bit of the punch in English, but I am sure you get the point!

OK, so what is the solution?

Now we come to the point. The solution is simple in my humble opinion. What is needed is an independent – with a double-emphasis on INDEPENDENT – governing body that actually controls the media. No, PEMRA is not that independent body! It is just a body to be used by people in power, pun intended!

What is needed is a body which:

  1. Is able to question any and all actions.
  2. Be able to take quick decisions. No red tape.
  3. Be able to dish out punishment as well, otherwise what good is a guard dog if it’s always on a leash?

How can this be done practically? Not an easy task, but the following are some suggestions:

  1. Instate someone who is not political and who when at the helm of such an organization can take and refute political pressure. A person like this may be impossible to find in Pakistan. We have seen what happened to the head of NADRA and the pressure the HEC had to bear in the fake degree scandal.
  1. Or we could let the media regulate itself by introducing a regulatory body of its own that operates under a set of clear and strict guidelines.

Till then, sit back and enjoy the drama…

Photo Credit: Melissa Segal via Compfight cc