Jalees Hazir The unprecedented floods in the country have provided us an insight into all that is brilliant and rotten in the state of Pakistan. As we provide relief to millions of our fellow citizens struck in the midst of the calamity and brace up to rebuild the ruins that the furious rivers have left behind, this insight could be very useful. In a way, the media is poised to play the most important part in this regard in days to come. And if it does not balance out its coverage of what is rotten with a serious effort at covering what is brilliant, the powerful media faces the danger of being counted among the rotten, despite its brilliant capability and good intentions. The newspapers and private television channels have been vigilant about exposing the criminal negligence of those in positions of power and projecting the miserable condition of people hit by the disaster, but they have failed to give due coverage to the positive side of the story and the scale and strength of the public response. There have been some scattered stories of the armed forces doing a good job, but other than that one hardly comes across any coverage of the many heroic initiatives undertaken by ordinary citizens and charitable organisations that need to be told and retold in the media. The media must understand this part of its responsibility. The idea is not to go soft on the serious shortcomings of the political leadership and the extended paraphernalia of bureaucracy who stand naked in their ineptness and lack of sincerity. They deserve to be lambasted and taken to task for their shameful failure and lack of credibility, a job that the conscientious reporters and anchor-persons are performing well. But it would help things tremendously if for every fake camp that is exposed on television, something positive like the efforts of a young team of volunteer doctors is also covered and given projection. Why has the hyperactive media not found the time to accompany some of the innumerable trucks of relief goods organised by citizens and brought across the compassion and zeal of those who are organising these efforts? Everyone I meet is involved in some way in coming to the help of the flood victims. Young and old, the rich and the not-so-rich, they are all contributing in one form or another. Even friends living abroad are making efforts to develop linkages with the relief efforts. If people are not raising funds they are at least contributing to them, students and professionals, the young and the not-so-young volunteers are personally taking relief goods to the affected areas and distributing them either independently or in association with some local organisation. Philanthropic trusts and associations, whatever their area of concern, have joined in. The volunteers and groups are coordinating among themselves to achieve the best results. Unfortunately, this huge relief effort which is a strong sign of hope is hidden from the wide-open eye of the media. This is unfortunate because blocking out hope from the TV screen and newspaper space creates despondency, the last thing we need right now. Even if there is a small good effort, it is important to bring it into focus as it energises people who want to do something positive and motivates them to link up with that effort. And here we are talking about a tremendous relief operation organised by ordinary citizens on their own. Can you imagine the effect it would have on the morale of Pakistani citizens if all the wonderful things that are being done are given even half the airtime that a fake relief camp is given? And mind you, the positive coverage does not have to be at the expense of the critical stories. What is required here is some balance. The media persons have been courageous in taking on those in positions of power and point out what is going wrong, but clearly this is not our only job. It is high time that we learn to take the next step and, along with the stories of doom and gloom, start bringing to our audiences the rays of hope that shine brightly around us. We ignore the good things at our peril. The balance is important as by focussing on only what is rotten and what is wrong, we aid and abet the creation of a world where only these things exist. The media is not only a mirror that reflects what goes on in the world around it, but it also shapes the reality due to its editorial discretion and the choices it makes. For the good to survive in these hard times, even an ounce of it must not be ignored. And here, we are talking about tons of it brushed under the carpet. Another good thing going that has not been given due coverage is the role of the armed forces in the relief efforts. Perhaps, because it has become unfashionable to say anything good about the men in uniform, they have not been given the credit they truly deserve. Those who have taken up the cause of army-bashing are miserly when it comes to appreciating their good deeds. Their success in Swat and now their organised relief efforts are brushed aside with comments like but that is what they are supposed to do or that is the least they can do considering the funds they get. What the critics dont seem to register is that there is a lot that other institutions are supposed to do and that we spend a lot of money on maintaining those other institutions as well, but there is no output. At least in the case of the armed forces, they have delivered in the time of need. Again, the idea is not to ask them to start running the affairs of the state and get engaged in political engineering or undeclared wars, but to appreciate them for a job well done without mincing any words. It is important to recognise the importance of the armed forces and to give them respect when they perform their duties. They are a large disciplined and organised force of committed able-bodied men, and we should be looking at strengthening the institution rather than weakening it with sweeping criticism that has become fashionable among the so-called champions of democracy. The army has earned respect in the eyes of the people for its role in the relief efforts, and it is another ray of hope that needs to be highlighted much more than the coverage it has received so far. Obviously, if the people manning the institutions of civil governance were to start performing their duties rather than abusing their positions of privilege for petty personal gains, they would also deserve and get similar respect. Like on other occasions, the media has stood with the people and put the government and bureaucracy on the spot for its inexcusable abdication of duty. That is not enough though. To stand out clearly as the brilliant ray of hope that it could be given the large number of conscientious and able professionals in its ranks and its potential to influence the public mind, it must turn its gaze to the unsung heroes and heroines that have come alive to help their fellow citizens in trouble. The writer is a freelance writer.