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Media Amidst Crossfire

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Tune-into any News Channel in Pakistan these days, you will watch and listen to nothing new but the same old breaking news, same faces, same speeches, sentences, deadlines, threats, demands at the same timings and at the same places.

The on-going DHARNA fiasco has been the central point of all news channels and the hot topic of all talk shows for the past 23 days. The wheel of the news programming is divided into three main segments i.e. Parliament speeches in morning time-slots, talk shows in noon/evening and the live Dharna sessions at night slots. Whereas, the news bulletins focusing all of the above are run throughout the day and night.

It is a fact that the on-going political crisis has significantly increased the eye-balls on almost all news channels and the viewership from the entertainment has shifted to news genre to great extent. Therefore, the cameras and reporting teams of these news channels are busy in covering special Azaadi and Inquilaab March transmissions 24/7. Whilst these transmissions going on, some of the channels must be charging premium from their advertisers and whereas, some news channels might even be sacrificing their revenues by dropping the commercial airtime in order to provide continuous coverage to the Dharna sessions because during such scenarios of live speeches and coverage, the broadcasters often avoid taking commercial breaks and thus lose business.

May it be PAT, PTI or the Parliamentarians or ruling bodies, everyone should be thankful to media and give credit to these news channels who are giving them more than enough coverage to spread their messages to the masses. It would not be an understatement if we say that Media is the actual strength of all the stakeholders here. If all these channels move their cameras away and stop giving them coverage, the situation will diffuse itself not within days but few hours. But, to our surprise, the batons, sticks and stones are now being used to attack the media. Consequently, some media channels have boycotted the coverage and some might have turned against these parties.

It all began with the harassing of the reporters and cameramen of Geo News by angry supporters of PTI due to the clash and boycott of PTI against Geo/Jang Group. They struck DSNG vans of Geo News with batons and had later barged into the offices of Geo, The News and Jang in Islamabad and pelted their building with stones.

Here, PAT couldn’t stay away and on September 1, 2014, the protestors armed with the sticks stormed the state-run channel, PTV, trashed their office and hindered their transmission by damaging the equipment and cutting off the wires in the control room. Later, the army had to step-in to expel the protestors and to clear the building.

However, it didn’t stop here. The Punjab Police have also joined this race of attacking on the media and crossed all limits. Around 28 journalists, cameramen and media workers were injured in an attack by Punjab police in Islamabad during the riots at Dharna. Police did not ruthlessly beat up the media workers including reporters, cameramen, DSNG Operators & Engineers and Drivers, but also damaged the satellite vans of a number of news channels.

Besides, one of the news channels had also reported that their team was attacked by few PTI protestors for recording Women abuse Scene at PTI Dharna. The protestors broke the camera and DV and also assaulted the team and threatened them. Another channel had reported that PTI workers had attacked its 4 crew members. They were brutally beaten by many workers of PTI with batons, punches and chairs.

All of the above incidents are on record and displayed by all these news channels. This has led to an extreme insecurity being faced by most of the media personnel.

I put a question to the torch-bearers of “Revolution” and “Change”… Does beating up the media workers and attacking the media houses do any good to you in your quest to bring about ‘Revolution’ and ‘Change’? I also want to ask the patrons of security (Police) whether beating up the media persons help you establish law and order or does it further aggravate the situation? At the end of the day, the journalists and media workers are just performing their duties.

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