Archive for November, 2010

Free Media – bane or boon ?

November 26, 2010

In today’s time when freedom of expression cannot be emphasized enough, a pro media censorship agreement could be considered as blasphemy! What people should understand is that censorship doesn’t mean inhibiting freedom of expression – It is just drawing a line between freedom and uncontrolled deviltry. Censorship is a reminder for all those who have crossed the lines of morality and compassion under the name of freedom of expression.

With more than 40 television channels beaming soaps, satire, music programmes, films, religious speech, political talk shows, and news of the hour the significance and need of media censorship in Pakistan today is at its pinnacle hence I believe not all opinions, information and pictures need to go on air.

 

Firstly, speaking of censorship, one section of the media that is in a terrible need of censorship regulations are the news channels. Visuals of disfigured bodies during riots, bloodbath and carnage television channels appear to have forgotten about media’s moral values in their rat race for TRPs. Being a witness to some of the most ruthless reporting scenarios in some of the most devastating catastrophes, it is my personal opinion as a viewer and as a global citizen that censorship should be about keeping the media real enough to reflect the society but subtle enough to keep it humane.

Secondly, censorship regulations should also be applicable on most of the young and new anchors that are the product of lack of training, knowledge and experience. They seem to be mesmerized by their own faces on mini-screens. An anchor’s duty is to present events as they are happening without personal commentary but in all private television channels, it is seen that these people, who have less political training, are trying to present events according to their own liking.

Because of which it becomes relatively easier for them to mould public opinion because people only see what media shows them and most of the times it is perceived to be true and with low literacy levels it doesn’t require rocket science to propagate something which might be non existent.

Thirdly, the dog-race that the media has gotten itself into for delivering or ‘creating’ breaking news the first, which is sometimes not even confirmed causes panic among the masses, hurts business activity and hampers economic growth. Along with painting a very volatile picture in the mind of foreigners as if Pakistan is full of instability. Hence news which harms the country at large needs to be censored as well.

Abstaining from censorship in the above mentioned scenarios we ourselves are exposing children of impressionable ages to excessive violence at a growing age, innocence of children is replaced by questioning the happenings around them the bombs and the bloodshed. Hence to make sure that our future generations are intellectual and progressive the content on TV should also be one which promotes these traits.

Talking about the entertainment media – stage, film and drama is exposed to threats from two fronts. Firstly, the news media with all its drama and sensationalism has driven away the audiences from stage and films and secondly the foreign channels with their quality programming and marketing expertise have been a substitute to our local channels for the viewers which is diluting our culture and we seem to be more abreast with foreign cultural and religious rituals and occasions than our own.

Hence censorship of foreign content being aired in our country complemented by the revival of the entertainment industry is need of the hour.

Today, no law on media censorship exists in the country. However quite recently the senate standing committee on Information and broadcasting proposed a new media code of conduct. The bill calls for a ban on graphic footage of terrorist attacks and forbids the media from airing the statements of violent extremists. But so far it the government hasn’t been successful enough in getting it passed because of concerns raised by the media.

 

So rather then indirectly influcing media by means of threatening to cut off advertising or suspending licenses to censor certain information, pictures or news which might not yield favorable results, government should try to expedite the on going process in which media has been asked to prepare their own code of conduct which is acceptable to the government as well. Along with a mechanism to ensure that the regulatory institutions use censorship judiciously.

 

Furthermore, media training institutions which produce professional and politically unbiased media personnel need to be setup. And steps should also be taken after consultation with all stake holders to establish a credible ratings agency which rates the television channels and their programs comprehensively and serves as tool to gauge their true popularity.

 

Lastly I would like to make a point that media greatly assist in building better societies by defending rule of law, encouraging human development and security. However a media without a “code of ethics” will harm people, make media lose its credibility gradually and the role of watch-god will get weakened eventually.

Published in Slogan media magazine November 2010

 

BLOG PAKISTAN

November 26, 2010

 

“For those unaware, of who this man is, let me put it in a very simple way: Hollywood has Batman, Superman, The Hulk, and Spiderman. Pakistan has Edhi”.Stated on Usman Gulfaraz’s blog post, this statement moved many as he paid a tribute to Pakistani humanitarian, Abdul Sattar Edhi. Usman is part of Pakistan’s emerging blogosphere.

 

Initially what started as a slow trend, blogging picked up on popularity, as access to internet increased prompted by declining DSL costs and availability of free blog hosting websites like WordPress, Blogspot and iGoogle. Contrary to the widely held belief, that politics in Pakistan is recreation, blogosphere is not inhibited to political discussions only. Blogs cover a wide array of interests ranging from sports, music to media, culture and philosophy.

 

Professor Adil Najam, Sitara-i-Imtiaz, of All things Pakistan and Dr.Awab Alwi of Teeth Maestro are two names synonymous with Pakistani blogosphere. Their blogs are distinguishable by heavy traffic while their opinions and posts are highly regarded. One cannot hesitate in saying that the duo has the power to set the direction of our country’s blogosphere.

 

Blogs are not restrained to locals. Contributions to the blogosphere extend to expatriate Pakistanis like Kalsoom Lakhani of CHUP! – Changing Up Pakistan, allowing them to share opinions and discuss the happenings in Pakistan. While celebrities like Naveen Naqvi known for her association with Dawn News TV, have their own blogs which coagulates fan interaction with opinion sharing on various issues.

 

Of late, the blogosphere had been flooded with posts from Sialkot lynching incident to spot fixing to Aisam’s exemplary display of sports and statesmanship at the US open. Bloggers have been quite vocal when conversing about issues of daily concern.

 

Pakistani blogosphere has become a barometer for gauging the vibe and voice of the educated Pakistanis. The significance of which could be judged from the fact that even CNN, NY Times and DNA India have been quoting views from blogosphere when reporting on events of mutual interest.

 

The digital resurrection of media has evolved the power paradigms. Marked by a shift of control to the individuals, being a publisher on the web is not an un-accomplishable task anymore. Backed by a consistent influx of comments and opinion sharing on the content generated, the “search” aspect has allowed the individual to be in a relatively favorable position to control content discovery than the media brands.

 

 

The traditional media has finally embraced the new vogue in readership. The growing need of information by seekers has led news blog to develop. These blogs have strengthened the connect with their readers by giving them an opportunity to submit articles and photographs while simultaneously allowing them to comment on news items and blog posts. Expanding on revenue mediums, print media has managed to lure online ads through the heavy traffic on the blogs.

 

The blogging world is not all virtual as it’s widely perceived. Blogger meet ups and conferences take place periodically in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad whose aim is to connect blogger for idea bounce offs in regard to performance enhancement, content quality and revenues by sharing their experiences and expertise. Such meet ups are sponsored by companies like Google, CIO and HP.

 

While on the other hand some meet- ups are specific- purpose driven, like in the case of Nokia a blogger meet up was held when it started the series of sneak previews of the Nokia N97. Telenor too held such a meet up for their CSR initiative ‘Karu Mumkin’ whose aim was to experience the idea with Telenor Pakistan’s marketing and communications team.

 

Moreover, to acknowledge the best bloggers in different genres and branding Pakistan on the global blogosphere the First Annual Blog Awards 2010 Ceremony was organized by Google Pakistan and CIO Pakistan.

 

“There is a great need for events like these,” said Dr Awab Alvi, popularly known among the blogosphere as Teeth Maestro.

 

Accolades were handed out to a total of 41 blogs in different categories ranging from celebrity, fashion and gossip to politics, current affairs and technology among a host of others. The voting process brought thousands of internet users to cast in their preferences, after which a panel, representative of organizations like Unicef, Cisco, Intel, P@sha, Dawn News, DELL, Demotix and educationists from Columbia Journalism School and Harvard University deliberated to sift out the winners for the best blog award in their respective categories out of 207 entries.

Conclusively it can be inferred that the blogging phenomenon in Pakistan is not a fad, rather a media formulation that is gaining momentum and acceptance with the audience and contributors. The blogosphere is channeling out its resources more widely as conventional media picks it up to upgrade itself, broadening the purpose and role of blogging. The growing inclination and recognition of the blogging efforts can be translated as a positive stance towards this new medium.

 

Published in Slogan media magazine October 2010

 

 

 

Media in times of DISASTER

November 26, 2010

Communication is an important part of disaster prevention and management. Mass media have certain characteristics that make them advantageous for disaster communication: They provide easy access to large publics and some of them constitute a robust communication system which remains working even in cases of a partial breakdown of the infrastructure like battery-powered radio. Media also have latent functions in disasters, which consist of emotional support and companionship which helps isolated individuals to feel connected with the “outside world.” These functions are crucial as they reduce the negative effects of stressful life events. In pakistan media is so powerful that it’s often termed as fourth pillar of the state.

Pakistani media has been useful for disaster control and mitigation during current deluge. Though initially glitches did develop while reporting from Kyber Pakhtunkhwa because the flooding was sudden and its scale was mammoth but soon media braced it self to report a huge natural calmity which affected every province and during their coverage media did provide reliable information which helped to reduce the impact of flooding.

With leading anchor persons like Talat Hussain , Naseem Zehra and Javaid Chaudry  reporting live from the flood hit areas alongwith  stories of those stranded proping up in the leading dailes, highlighted the true enormity of the diasater, helped to increase the ranking of the disaster management issue on the policy agenda and succeeded in not only creating a political momentum by forcing the top political and military brass to be on ground with the affected and make sure that they are provided adequate relief.

This time around media  acted with maturity and restriant  by not indulging into any blame game and showing a sympathetic picture, which aided in mobilization of help from outside the affected communities  and  even successfull in  securing  international help

Local NGOs being run by credible personalities have been successful in tapping the audience exposed to the mianstream media by appearing on live marathons being aired by different media groups to galvanize the relief efforts , publications have been full of print ads  with regards to the scale of devastation and NGOs response retrospect relief , rehabilitaion and reconstruction and what help do they   seek from the philantropist alongwith guidance to those who wish to help by informing them about differnt relief funds which are setup and the the way to donate via SMS.

 

Globally social media and social networks are being used increasingly for fundraising, communication updates at times of disaster – from posting updates on Twitter to sharing information on YouTube. Red Cross was a trending topic in Twitter and was appearing in real time Google search results as a result of so many people posting status updates to Twitter about their relief fund and how they are supporting the disaster. On Facebook former US President Bill Clinton can be seen in a video sharing his thoughts in terms of how people can hep with the Haiti disaster.

Learning from the haiti experience the US embassy in Islamabad has been using , “Facebook,” “Flickr,” and “Youtube.” together with the traditional media to provide information about the relief work it has been carrying out and UNICEF too has been constantly uploading videos on its website about the relief operation its undertaking.

Groups like the Pakistan Youth Movement are active on Facebook and tweets are springing up under the topic pkfloods on twitter. For the sake of transparency  the Motor Sports Club of Pakistan and Off road Pakistan are  also updating the exact locations of their aid laden truck on the internet i.e. live tracking.

Former President Perzez Musharaf has  posted a video message on his FB page calling for people to help on the other hand Faisal Chohan a TEDFellow has established an incident reporting website http://pakrelief.crowdmap.com/ which allows people with cell phones to give live updates of issue on the ground. Which could be used by relief organizations to adequately divert resources where needed.

 

As the rescue operation nears its end and relief operation on going , mainstream media should be used to mobalize funds , create awareness  as it has the largest audience and to promote social media sites by Including social media icons in transmissions and publications,updating relevant blogs by media personnels present at the affected areas and linking it to website pages , creating links to each social media site on all website and inviting staff to include standard social media links in email signatures.

 

Published in Slogan media magazine September 2010

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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