“Zulm ki baat ko, jehel ki raat ko,

Mein naheen maanta,

mein naheen jaanta”

It has long been asking to be said. But who will say it? In a country where only twenty years ago one couldn’t see the pasture for the horde of holy cows, the cows were slowly butchered one by one by the media. It seemed the last cow standing was the security apparatus of the country. But that one too is now served up with glee, dressed with recounts of gory excesses committed by it.

Cows are gone. But the Holy Media remains. None within it will criticize members of the fraternity, none willing to name and shame no matter how heinous the offence. When the media doesn’t hold itself accountable in the same manner it does everyone else, when instead of journalists we see jokers of all stripes dominating and controlling the profession, we get the monster that the media has now become in Pakistan.

There appears to be no one willing to challenge the inhuman and fascist causes being propagated, championed and glorified on television. The range is extensive – from giving chase to transgenders and gays to declaring different sects of Muslims kafirs, to offering killers and terrorists free prime time for days on end to push their violent, barbaric agenda.

The past week has seen Taliban and their sympathisers shape and dictate the national narrative to the tune of their murderous ideology, thanks to those who proudly call themselves journalists. These giants and giantesses have facilitated further confusion in the polity that has been at the end of endless lies by the state for decades. Instead of questioning the government’s ill thought through initiative to hold ‘talks’ with terrorists, they have been taking refuge in it. Instead of reporting on the ‘talks’, these ‘professionals’ have not only provided the best platform to terrorists to propagate their hateful ideology, but have actively supported their cause. Instead of questioning unfortunate acquittals of terrorists by the courts of this country, or analyzing the reasons thereof, they find shields in ‘innocent until proven guilty’.

Whilst many reportedly indulged thus in the horror on display during the last one week, I personally witnessed one anchor shouting down a panelist who had the courage to point out the absurdity of allowing a known criminal and terrorist, ‘Maulana’ Abdul Aziz of the Red Mosque and burqa fame, to argue as an equal his point of view. Lest one forget, his ‘point of view’ of amassing heavy weaponry at the Laal Masjid, of his challenge to the state in the shape of armed conflict with, and murder of, the officers and soldiers of the armed forces in the middle of Islamabad, of his holding hostages resulting in several dozen deaths and finally escaping in a burqa, is not hidden from anyone, having been played out on live television for days on end in 2007. Yet, Mr. Arshad Sharif found it appropriate to come to the aid of the criminal and jump at his other guest for committing a ‘personal attack’ on Hazrat Burqa Aziz when she pointed out that he was a criminal. His reasoning: Hazrat Burqa had been honourably acquitted in over twenty cases against him.

Who doesn’t know why Hazrat Burqa was acquitted by the wretched courts? And who does not know that he is indeed a militant and a terrorist? Who does not know that he challenged the writ of the state with his ‘students’ armed to the teeth? Yet, Mr. Sharif, committed of course to ‘balance’ and ‘ethics’ the media soself-righteously touts, found it in himself to proclaim Hazrat Burqa the victim of a ‘personal attack’ and his other guest a fascist and a hate speech and violence monger. Unashamedly, he joined Tahir Ashrafi in castigating his female guest for stating facts. The lack of any remorse, any hint of having done any wrong, after the show was a study in hubris.

Such is the cowardice and fear running through the veins of the Holy Media that, leave alone challenging terrorism itself, it does not allow others to do it either. One can understand the real fear and threat media persons and corporations are under. And one understands the lack of courage on their part. But what is beyond comprehension, then, is the need to invite terrorists to talk show panels if a challenge cannot be mounted. Has anyone forced these intrepid heroes and heroines to invite criminals and terrorists to the shows to glorify them? The least they can do is not touch subjects they are incapable of handling professionally.

This, ladies and gentlemen is the state of the Holy Media. And no maai ka laal, barring a very few sane voices from within the media, have the guts to challenge it. Not only is sheer lunacy and darkness on display on our TV screens, but it is being shoved down our throats in the name of ‘ratings’, with no challenge to the grossly faulty rating system itself. A grand total of 675 people meters, half in Karachi homes and the other half in Lahore, with no more than a handful in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Baluchistan, and virtually none in rural areas, is what the media industry swears by.

Between fear of life and the greed for ratings and wealth, the media is willing to prostitute itself and peddle hate, prejudice, violence and terror to unsuspecting minds. It is the biggest heist of thought unfolding. What Ayub, Yahya, Zia or Musharraf could not do, the media has accomplished. It is a tragedy that Habib Jalib’s words embodying resistance to military fascism now offer an appropriate expression of struggle against the media’s war on our minds:

“Iss khulay jhoot ko, zehn ki loot ko

Mein nahi maanta, mein nahi jaanta”

The writer is a human rights worker and freelance columnist.


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