The idea behind having a more intimate presser with the prime minister is to give more time to each questioner. That, obviously, means fewer journalists.
Fewer journalists, obviously, translates into the resentment of those not making it to the exclusive list. And, of course, a scrutiny of those that did.
That was bound to happen. Critics of the recent panel interview of Prime Minister Imran Khan pointed at the lack of ideological diversity therein. There were next to no critics of the present dispensation. The most independent was Hamid Mir, whose line, of late, doesn’t inspire quite the same sense of independence as it used to.
Though, if one were to start thinking about it, how many of those decidedly critical of the government are on air in the first place? Some have already been sacked, while others are serving their notice periods. And some anchors are on their way to be told by their respective seths to dial things down.
As The Dependent, the satirical supplement of this newspaper, quipped about the interview: Impartial PM to hold follow-up interview with critical journalists as soon as they find employment, asylum.
This made one of the first points discussed in the interview very interesting. The program was moderated, in a admirably non-overbearing manner, by the panelist from PTV. The fellow appreciated how there was now no censorship anymore on the state television channel. Kamran Shahid, a PTV veteran (calling it his alma mater), chimed in with approval. No censorship, yes, bravo.
The sheer chutzpah of this statement! Rather than there being no censorship on PTV, there is now unprecedented censorship of private television channels. On some of the second-tier ones, even the tickers come pre-approved from those who must not be named.
Coming back to the interview: though one can’t say there were absolutely no follow up questions, they still weren’t the tough fare that they could have been. It always seemed it would spill over into puff questions this second or the next.
On a question about his repeated intention to not give an ‘NRO’ to the opposition, he was told by one of the panelists that the opposition hadn’t demanded one. Another quipped that maybe they hadn’t demanded an NRO from him, but from “others.”
Everyone laughed, and Imran Khan, the cute, simple man that he can be, responded to the question by promptly talking about the powers that have allegedly put him in government. We’re on the same page, he said; they are behind us.
It’s good that he knows his place. And the media, theirs.