Ali Tahir Mughees

LAHORE - Victims of sexual abuse get more damaged after the media jumps in, everything gets messy; and this itself is the prime reason why most of such cases are not even reported to the police. Going to the police means giving a shout-out to the media, and calling the media in such a matter means haphazard, unsorted, unneeded, unchecked leakage of information on a sensitive matter to the masses. And that in our ‘honourably’ closed society is usually even more horrifying and painful than the original assault.

So, as a result, a victim of sexual abuse and his or her guardians prefer living in pressed circumstances rather than getting raped by the media. The latest sexual assault case of Mughalpura girl isn’t the only time the media abused a situation, this media has raped many to fame. Not only the victims and their families, it has also harassed the masses by giving unwanted gruesome details (print media) and showing it over and over again (electronic media).

The five-year-old victim of sexual abuse was found unconscious outside a hospital in Lahore. In response, the media under the ‘expression of solidarity’ molested the victim, the family and the masses. The media kept humiliating the little angel for days, putting at stake her life, her honour and her future, and, when that too felt boring, they unleashed assault on her parents, her relatives, her residency – in fact, everything related to her. And the irony is the girl is too young to know what has actually happened to her, to what extent her life has been tainted and what kind of future awaits her in this inhumane society.

Without jumping into boring technicalities of media ethics, a very basic rule settles down most of media ethics related issues i.e. whether media person in a given situation can, in the truest sense, relate to the victim. Had they taken victims like their own kin, no names or unwanted details would’ve been revealed. Gruesome details the print media gave were utterly shameful. It makes one wonder what kind of questions brought out such details and who asked them, and why. Even some big names in print media gave out raw facts. The first report on the incident by the oldest English language daily of the country left many disturbed for days. The sort of information given in the report isn’t even discussed so openly in courts then how can a mass media tool publish it! Investigative skills should be saved for some other substance; this certainly was not the subject you apply it on.

What is it all about? It’s about fighting for justice, and if we had one of our own stuck in such a situation we would’ve fought for the victim in a more responsible way; and would it not have worked? We would’ve made sure the case clicks maintaining nobility.

Media persons shyly argue that in such situations, matters should be dealt with aggression or else cases are left abandoned, without any outcomes. The job of media is to create awareness through the spread of information and to enforce accountability, not to poison the masses with hate and blind them with anger. The media should play its role like a big brother, it should take the driving seat; media leadership should be stressed upon.

Those fuzzy video footages which show the unconscious girl hanging on an unknown man’s shoulders cuts in deeper every time, picture the feeling the girl’s father is forced into during every news bulletin, every hour. Even the one in which she is seen in her senses makes ones heart drown in pain, anxiety and sorrow, imagine what her family goes through every time, after every hour for so many days. In a family system where a parallel parliament like “Shareeka” exists with all its power and exercised with vigour, imagine how the girl’s life would be now when the media ‘wanted justice for her’. There is another side to this media menace, the impact such news have on the society. Watching news with the family became so mortifying for many days. The media left kids asking: “what is Ziyati”? The regret in the society after watching news bulletins remains indescribable. And then after the incident so many rape cases started to pop up from little corners of the country.  There came a time when Express TV on 18 September broadcast 6 rape cases back to back in a news bulletin, which is quite questionable. This trail of incompetence leads to the corridors of the Media Commission Report. Had that little girl had a choice she would’ve never gone to the police to avoid what happened to her and her surroundings thanks to the untamed ill-mannered watchdog.