Last week, human rights lawyer, Rashid Rehman was killed for being the legal counsel of a man accused of blasphemy. This week, around 70 people, including lawyers protesting against the police chief of Jhang, Umar Daraz, for manhandling their colleague were booked in a blasphemy case for disrespecting the name (Umar) of the second Caliph of Islam. Does this sound alarming? Not if you tuned into one of the private news channels last night, where a talk show host accused a rival media house of airing blasphemous content during a morning show.

In what seemed like the settlement of a very personal score, the host in question went to some trouble to draw linkages between the content of the show and its erring into the vast playing fields of blasphemy, as though speaking to an audience of school children. This has happened before; the blasphemy premise, thrown carelessly around by an irresponsible media personality to incite public emotion, was pinpointed as one of the causes resulting in the death of Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer in 2011. It would not be completely outside the scope of belief, to imagine this episode might ultimately lead to violence as well. It is important to call upon the public faces of the media in Pakistan- those respected and recognised professionals our public turns to for some degree of enlightenment- to behave responsibly, and to stop muddying the intellectual narratives of the country. This is no longer a debate only about the existence of the blasphemy law, but also about the existence (and acceptance) of a certain breed of people on our television screens; people with the power to shape opinion, who have extended their responsibilities to include distasteful moralising in their portfolio of duties, people who will lie, cheat, twist and sensationalise the news for their own agendas. Should PEMRA not take notice of these on-air accusations and penalize the channels in question? And if PEMRA doesn’t move a pinky finger, shouldn’t the public be outraged enough to voice it? Shouldn’t we, for once, see through the faux earnestness, the absurd theatrics of the men and women who have absolutely no authority to pass careless judgment after judgment, apart from the cameras standing in the way of them and us? Shouldn’t the nation be protesting the condescension with which it is told what is right and wrong in faith?

If somebody gets hurt following the crassness with which the show in question was executed, the blame will fall on the media house and on the media regulatory bodies- one of which, is the public. That means us.