All Pakistanis take inspiration from Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s principle of Unity, Faith, Discipline. The founder of Pakistan had said:
“I have no doubt that with unity, faith and discipline we will compare with any nation of the world. You must make up your minds now. We must sink individualism and petty jealousies and make up our minds to serve the people with honesty and faithfulness. We are passing through a period of fear, danger, and menace. We must have faith, unity and discipline.”
But what surprises me is that our media industry has failed to learn anything from the Quaid. Even though I am comparatively new to this field, I feel I am mature enough to analyze its kal, aaj aur kal.
I have followed Jinnah since I was a child and made Unity, Faith, Discipline the motto of my life.
His quote makes me think on the current situation of Pakistan’s media and it fits the scenario perfectly. I have always heard that unity is the key to any profession and if you’re well disciplined and faithful, you will always be remembered with good words.
When I started my career, I went looking for unity among journalists. I was told to join any journalist union so everyone could show unity as one voice and celebrate press freedom day. Alas, these last few weeks did everything but show me the unity I was looking for.
Journalists in Pakistan have sunk to a new low of personal attacks against colleagues, setting basic ethics aside. This has also brought forward the lack of discipline in our fraternity and has lead to disappointment for youngsters who are looking to adopt journalism as a full-time profession.
So to investigate this lack of unity among journalists in Pakistan I spoke to some senior colleagues and tried to understand what was behind this disharmony.
Senior journalist and renowned anchor-person Kamran Khan said that the behavior of journalists is not different from that of our society.
“Sadly, journalists are also as divided as our nation today. Personal agendas are driving their work while Media ethics have been left behind. Yet there are a handful journalists who are still standing above self interest and they are trying to strike a balance by giving an objective picture to their viewers and readers,” he said.
“This backed me in keeping faith in my profession alive,” Khan explained.
Rehman Azhar, another broadcast journalist, said that the current chaotic situation of the media posed a serious threat to the future of the profession.
“The whole media conflict is self-destructive at best. The credibility of the entire media is at stake. It is not the job of the media to take sides – with institutions or political parties. Our first and foremost responsibility lies towards the people and their right to accurate information. Amidst this chaos, that duty is being neglected,” he said.
Discussing unity, faith and discipline with Kamran Khan and Rehman Azhar helped me understand that even though there were ugly practices ruining the image of journalism, there are people who follow best practices and this gave me a small ray of hope.
On the other hand, seasoned journalists like Waqas Rafique believe that freedom of expression in Pakistan has always been a bumpy road and the electronic media has both excited and threatened different quarters.
“It is unfortunate that some TV channels took it on themselves to point fingers at just one media outlet. Such acts do nothing to empower the people of the country. It just leads to chaos and disappointment.”
Taking into account the above mentioned viewpoints, the journalist community is on the same page of ‘with greater freedom comes greater responsibility’.
Jawad Ahmed Sidiqui thinks that “for the present media ‘unity, faith and discipline’ is nothing more than a cliché now. The competition of ratings has become so fierce that responsibility and credibility has been taken over by incitement and blame game. Instead of pointing out the flaws and opting for positive criticism, media houses are ‘shooting to kill’ and not realizing the eventual price we all might have to pay”.
Terry Anzur, an international media trainer, was recently in Pakistan and witnessed the behavior of Pakistani media. She believes that the journalist community in Pakistan seriously lacks a missing unifying voice.
“The recent explosion of broadcast media outlets in Pakistan has left journalists in a hyper-competitive atmosphere and facing real threats to their safety. There are several groups attempting to organize journalists, but the profession is lacking a strong, unified voice to speak on behalf of a common code of ethics, following international best practices. With unity to develop such a code, and the discipline to follow it, the public can have faith in journalists who act in the public interest, playing their crucial watchdog role in a democracy,” she said.
This is not the environment I had dreamed of working in. I am sure there are many journalists like me who are depressed to see the unethical behavior of our seniors.
But I have not lost all hope. I am sure our industry will bounce back and will be on the right path soon.
It not about organizations, it is about journalism. I am sure everyone realizes their responsibilities and are ashamed of not playing the right roles for the sake of journalism.
Now is the time to join hands and show unity, faith and discipline. This is the only way forward to help restore people’s faith in this profession.