A few months ago, speaking at a rally, PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari called all those journalists who speak against his party on talk shows as barking dogs. Now an audio tape of a conversation between PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz and former Information Minister Pervez Rashid has surfaced in which he is found calling all those reporters like barking dogs that do not represent his party’s point of view on a television program. The former minister also lamented the absence of a party spokesperson on the talk show’s panel of journalists. The two leaders also showed contempt for the quality of the language used by the journalists on the panel. At the end of the audio tape, Maryam Nawaz also spoke about the gift baskets former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif brought from Uzbekistan and were sent to two prominent journalists.
Two words are important in these conversations: Dog and spokesperson. Both words are used to describe journalists. Another point to glean is the culture of giveaways to journalists. Another area of concern is the quality of the language used on television.
What does this say about journalism and journalists in Pakistan?
In speaking of journalism in Pakistan, he lost vigor and spirit, not to mention the integrity he had when the editor’s office was intact, independent and professionally run. The decline in the quality of journalism in Pakistan is attributed to the explosion of the private television channel running against the clock, which is only a fraction of the truth. In reality, the fall reflects the general attitude of the Pakistani workforce towards their professions. Pick any profession, and you’ll find it infested with violence, cheating, and professional dishonesty. With absolutely zero oversight from ineffective regulators, every profession has become a cult where every entity has become a power over itself. Do we not lament how private doctors have used sordid means to deceive their patients?
Despite exorbitant fees, professional ethics, which are said to be the best among physicians, have remained lacking in most cases. The usual complaint against the doctors was about their cold, rude and at worst ignorant demeanor. The same goes for the lawyers, who had acquired an unusual moral authority to challenge anyone. Whether it was damaging and ransacking courts, beating judges, or getting into a brawl like a vagabond with opposing parties, the lawyers used every mechanism to establish their injunction on the court order. the constitution which prohibits any individual or organization from taking the law into their hands. Likewise has been the behavior of private schools. They stole from parents in the name of quality education. Each school had the choice and the freedom to teach what it deemed right. Private schools have proliferated like grass in every nook and cranny of the country. The quality was absent in most cases. Universities have practically been handed over to the youth wings of political parties. The University of Punjab is the classic example where Islami Jamiat Talaba, the student wing of Jamaat-e-Islami, has the final say in the administrative decisions of the university. The University of Karachi was easily placed under the All Pakistan Muttahida Students Organization, the youth wing of the MQM.
Ditto for other universities. Many prominent universities like the University of Peshawar have become bank accounts for their employees. They used it to strike money by employing shadow teachers and using a considerable portion of the funds on administrative expenses rather than improving the quality of education. The same approach has been used in the sports sector. Whether it’s being a four-time world hockey champion, winning so many Gold Cups in squash, or becoming a name to be reckoned with in wrestling, we’ve lost every part of that accolade to because of the corrupt practices and intellectual dishonesty of administrative staff. There is a total disconnection between universities and industries. Ideally, they both build on each other’s strength to endow the country with a workforce with the relevant skills. Have you ever wondered why Pakistan has been held hostage to the low skills trap for countless years now?
What went wrong and how did we get there?
The responsibility rests with the government. All relevant ministries and their departments have regulatory bodies to set parameters of quality and excellence for organizations and individuals under their jurisdiction, such as PEMRA regulates media behavior. The Health Care Commission across the country regulates the health sectors. The Pakistan Bar Council is responsible for regulating the behavior of lawyers. The Pakistan Medical Commission regulates doctors. Then there are private school regulators in every province. Countless regulatory bodies oversee journalism and the conduct of journalists. The Pakistan Sports Board regulates sports. The list goes on.
If the quality of a sector declines, much of the responsibility falls on the regulators, as they have to keep quality and excellence tight by identifying gaps, gaps and irrelevant interventions. However, no regulatory body can tell the difference if there is no cross-sector engagement between different departments. Actions outside the sector are as important as actions inside. For example, the quality of public transport, water, sewage system, school programs, food law, targeted subsidies and tax breaks have an impact on people’s health. Any improvement in these areas improves health indicators. According to community health studies, around 50% of illnesses and 40% of deaths in Pakistan are due to poor quality drinking water. We cannot hold hospitals fully responsible for these deaths, although the lack of preliminary health services is contributing to the escalating death rate.
This brings us to the culture of the giveaway and the decline in the quality of journalism. When newspapers and chains fell into the hands of influential businessmen, they became profit and loss entities, and journalists were reduced to salespeople. It’s all about money and power. Those who cannot make money inside the sector try their luck outside. With the population explosion and quality on the back burner, intellect and skills are easily compromised. Add to that the inefficient regulators, and we have the perfect combination of a greedy, corrupt and impulsive work environment. Have you ever wondered why we face a confidence deficit in all sectors?
Those who call journalists dogs or buy their loyalty are part of the widespread culture of intellectual dishonesty. Have you ever wondered why the Pakistani justice system is compromised?
Posted in The Express Tribune, January 6e, 2022.
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