The question how much freedom the media should have by itself is a sufficient indicator that it has assumed a disturbing particularity for society and state. What are those harmful aspects? To know them one has to look at the spectrum of the people running the Pakistani media. Our information environment is being run by five kinds of people: i Chest beaters, who whip the national scene into despondency and want people to join them. i Pessimists, who see nothing but calamities, problems steaming with no redemption in sight. i Cynics, who repudiate everything, spreading negativity by ignoring the positive aspects. i Intellectuals, who speak with an air of superiority and think that they have the right to deprive people of their values, transposing them with a foreign agenda. They describe themselves as progressive and rational. iOptimists, who never miss an occasion to criticise the wrong, but see light at the end of the tunnel. The first four are seemingly sick, but they are not. Beating chest, sketching dark scenarios, spreading despair, inducing scepticism and cynicism is their chosen path. That there is a method to their madness is evident from their proclaimed agenda. They insist on using their right to express in order to change the primary characteristics of the state. In psychological warfare, when an enemy state aims at destabilising the other nation, the weapons used are mostly psychic, non-material, including spread of despair, negativity, cynicism, low self-esteem, lack of confidence and disbelief in the future. Likewise, those in tandem with their foreign sponsors keep on reinventing the wheel by resurrecting foundational issues already settled in the Constitution in the past, followed by stirring them up repeatedly till they become controversial, eventually losing their sanctity. Evidently, the intention here is to unravel the unifying bond that keeps the nation together. And who can do it better than the media? The secular lobby active in such pursuits is well known. This is one side of the storm brewing, which no government really cared to tame or showed its grasp of the threat potential. The other feature is equally disturbing. In the conflict between the government and the media, the former clamps restrictions on it only when its nerves get tangled on the medias criticism. It is on some such occasion that the government points its accusing finger at the media for being irresponsible, asking it to stay within the bounds. But the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) case is a different one for they want to do wrong and then desire that their dirty linen should not be exposed to the public. In the past, the Peoples Party twice came into power. And each time it was ousted on charges of corruption, nepotism, and maladministration. Luckily, for them the media then did not enjoy the spread that it has now and most of their crimes remained hidden. During Benazirs second-term when stories involving the big ones in the party caught the peoples imagination, someone made the unsightly observation that her administrations performance was dismal and she might not have another chance at the polls, she blurted out: Dont you worry. Our voters do not read newspapers. Even today,, the PPP has the same mindset. They think people are imbeciles and can be deceived and if the media stays neutral their game of deception can continue. The same, by and large, goes for the regional and ethnic parties. Their attitudes notwithstanding, the medias phenomenal uncollared growth has bewildered other nations, while the PPP has begun to watch media with extended nostrils and clenched fists: The media, a PPP Minister said in the vocabulary reflective of our present times, is carrying out suicide attacks on the government, in response we have resorted to its target killing. Obviously, it is not a good situation. When President Asif Ali Zardari says that the media should not criticise his administration and the media retorts in matching tones, as their right to say the disagreeable or that they did not have their freedom free on a platter, the cleavage between the two becomes wide enough to bridge. Ironically, we may abound in pious intentions, but when it comes to the golden principle of balance and moderation, we go bingo out on the limp. We insist on garnering authority and power beyond our right. In other words, we seek unbridled freedom for ourselves and restrictions for others. For instance, for the last so many years there has been a lot of churning in the air about the code of conduct for the media, but nothing came out of it. And when it was left to the media to come up with a code of conduct for its own sake the result still was nothing. The matter, however, is not that complex to have escaped solution provided the disputants had agreed to certain conditionality. To begin with, the government, despite its childish sensitivity, must consent to the medias right to expose its misdeeds before the people. The media must cure. A smart government, which considers itself responsible to the people, is not only keen to seek good counselling, but also present itself for accountability. In the same vein, it also considers the judiciary as its best friend. Together with the media and judiciary, it improves its performance and its natural consort image. Unfortunately, the PPP has always suffered from contradictions. They regard a feudal administrative set-up as the peoples government and indulge into lawlessness; and then to save themselves from legal cognisance, seek cover behind the people. To them, if the people vote them into power, then they are beyond legal reproach. It is for this reason they tangle themselves with the media, show their eyes to the judiciary, and shout at the army. In this conflict between the government and the media, there is another unfortunate aspect that has surfaced. That is, when it comes to the medias criticism of governmental inefficiency, the latter brandishes its sword to kill its tormentors. But when part of the media makes a scathing attack on the existence of the Pakistani state and repeatedly dares to annul the partition of British India on behest of its foreign sponsors, the government gives not a damn, even though laws are available under which such newspapers and TV channels can be punished. This is all the more regrettable for it is the governments primary responsibility to protect and safeguard the security and integrity of the state. The media is certainly not innocent and often comes up with thoughts which can at best be described as presumptuous with little relevance to law or even to common sense. For example, media people should take this absurd notion out of their head that the right to enjoy freedom is unqualified. Such freedom notion is hardly found on this planet, for freedom without an orbit, eventually leads to disorder and anarchy, weakening societies and nations. Likewise, the media must also understand that if they have rights, the state and the Muslim society constituting it also have some rights. The media and the nation must go in tandem; otherwise, the state will suffer. n The writer is a freelance columnist.