“but it will seem planted...which it is..but...”
Pakistani mediamen don’t like each other much. Yes, they may walk hand-in-hand on the odd rally or two but in what is a field notorious for having many fragile egos, there are many more fissures than are apparent. This applies not just to individual journalists and pundits but the magnates themselves. Despite all that, however, a line had been drawn. Professional courtesy (according to the community itself) or an honour amongst thieves (according to those not pleasantly disposed to the news media as a whole) dictated that regardless of how harsh the rivalries are, unflattering news items against each other were off-bounds.
That all changed the day before, with mainstream TV channels running clips of a leaked behind-the-scenes video of the an interview of real estate tycoon Malik Riaz. Already viral on social media, rival channels started to gloat over the issue and the video still wouldn’t have gotten off the news cycle by the time the reader sees this.
The court has asked Pemra authorities to make an explanation. The latter is actually in unchartered territory now. In the past, anything by way of content regulation by the state was quickly painted as suppression. The courts, presumably, were inclined to agree. But the content in question is anti-judiciary or, at least, that is what the chief justice said yesterday to the Pemra chairman. That would mean the authority is now to actually take action against the channel in question and would be supported by the judiciary, rather than be reprimanded for it. And, in what would be an even rarer occurrence, most of the rest of the media would actually be egging them on as well, instead of shouting ill-fitting Orwell quotes. Whether, because of previous restraint, Pemra gives a disproportionate retribution, remains to be seen.
There are myriad complexities here. The freedom of speech aspect needs to be taken into account. Criticism of a court decision isn’t contempt, not respecting the court’s decisions or obstructing the court’s proceedings are. Though the laws pertaining to discussing issues sub judice should be changed, there needs to be restraint by the commentariat when it comes to these issues, as correctly pointed out by the chief justice.
Similarly, the media itself needs to realise that the carefully constructed facade of fair and independent journalism is falling apart. Planted news items were always known to those of us working in the sector, but this dirty secret is now making its way to the previously unsuspecting public.