I remember it as if it was yesterday. I had barely graduated high school. My father would walk into my room early morning, right after the Fajr prayer. The first thing he would do is turn on the Geo News Channel. I would wake up to the sound of Geo News’ thematic opening. The talk shows began right after. It was never my alarm clock or the yanking of my parents that woke me up. It was rather the extreme noise, the bickering of talk show hosts and their guests that sounded an alarm. All the major Pakistani News networks such as Dunya, ARY News, PTV amongst others that my father would skim through showed a great circus on all the major network channels that would leave me thinking, what change are these men and women going to bring to Pakistan when not a single one of them had the civility to discuss the issues haunting Pakistan. I am now 27 years old yet the Pakistani political/socio-cultural talk shows remain the same. The same faces appear on the major network channels daily. Daily, I sit before the television with my father, and I see the blame-game play out, the continuous marketing of political parties by their members. No solution is given to the issues at hand or the issues seems to remain missing from the initial aim of discussion. This raises the question then, is the Pakistani media doing its work adequately?
While we welcome the freedom of speech as a society because we believe in free press, is the freedom being utilized with responsibility? The answer to this question is sadly a no. Freedom without responsibility is chaos, which is manifested in daily talk shows. I write this letter to all the Pakistani major networks and to the Pakistani public at large to examine certain trends that have conditioned the Pakistani society to accept certain ways of media as normal. No civil society welcomes or accepts such unexceptional trends in media. This letter is for a change that we as civil individuals must seek by not giving an ear to the men who make false promises on the televised shows and the televised program hosts who put up such a circus. The first half of the letter is to call the Pakistani media to set its priority straight, and latter part of this minute letter is to appeal to conscious of ordinary Pakistani citizens to push for a change together. The ordinary Pakistani citizen is the center of this publication and antagonist, the Pakistani media.
With the turn of each day, I ask my father, what do you really get out of listening to such talk shows as civility and sincerity clearly seems to be missing in these men who make their living out of raising similar issues repeatedly. We see the same faces looping in each talk show. Each appears before the public and sells his or her lie. This renders a consistent pattern in all talk shows. Two-face men feeding upon the political rhetoric that is their own creation to keep the larger public confused and tangled in political noise that offers no solution to the plight of those suffering. What is in the hallow words of such men who lack the moral courage and ridicule the entire nation while they refer to each other as “mohtrum, merey aziz, mery bahi or mere behan, but do not work together to reform for the wellbeing of ordinary citizens. The ordinary man is used as an excuse for whom all the fuss erupts, but the ordinary man always seems to be missing in the picture. The shows are run at the expense of a citizen who sits himself before the television to seek a single proof of civil servants’ loyalty to the cause of those affected in some manner or another. The audience take a quick gaze at their condition. Then follows a sighs from the core of the citizens’ hopes and desires. As a society that is asking for a change, the nation must confront this mockery rather than accepting it as normal. The televised shows and the print media must find it an obligation, both moral and social to push forth the voices of reason.
Another pattern that does not go by unnoticed is the utter disgrace of common citizens who mainly belong to the lower-upper to middle class. The audience are daily invited at morning shows and prize-offering programs that put the ordinary citizens through mediocre games for a prize while the elite hosts ridicules them, shattering the audience’s self-esteem. This trend must stop. While the prizes may serve quite useful to men or women who may be in dire need, the methodology used to bestow upon them a reward is deserving of condemnation. Political puppets continue to doom the citizens while the elite television hosts also take great pleasure in dooming the ordinary men. We must recognize that something is wrong with this picture. The dignity, the self-respect of a Pakistani citizen that Allama Iqbal spoke so vocally of is ruined. The ordinary man is always exploited for one reason or another. Our desire or wish to improve our lives with whatever commodity it may be should not come at the sacrifice of the self that seeks to spread its wings to heavens above. Daily, such programs are run, and daily the youth, men, and women succumb to this mockery.
Pakistani media must bring out the intellectual voices of youth, ordinary men who seeks an opportunity to bring to the forefront their true talents, their inner voice rather than simply serving as demoralized individuals before a nation of 200 million or so individuals. Media, as it serves a gateway to the outer world and to the world within has a responsibility towards the younger generation, towards the citizens as Pakistani media plays a strong role for all Pakistanis. If the pattern of mockery or ridicule continues, the moral decay of a society will be worse than it is now.
I call upon the Pakistani media to maintain the parameters of civility, parameters of responsibility, and show a commitment to giving voice to ordinary citizens. The common man is the focus, and he or she must remain so. The only reason for a common man to come before the nation and the only reason for the media to bring a common man before the nation of 200 million individuals should be to uplift the society, the great intellectual leap that commoners long to show. Citizens should not be mocked or made mockery of by the television hosts and the media-hungry politicians. I call upon the citizens of the Pakistan to not give ears to such men who appear to lie before you daily, to make promises before you as they bank upon your time, your labor, and your economic strength. Pakistan deserves better. The ordinary citizens must push our media to reform itself if Pakistani media wants any validation. In the words of Iqbal comes a fresh breath of revival, the cure to our ailing nation that Pakistanis and its media should live by:
“Ye Peyam De Gyi Hai Mujhe Bad-e-Subahgahi
Ke Khudi Ke Arifon Ka Hai Maqam Padshahi
The morning breeze has whispered to me a secret,
That those who know their self-hood, are equal to king