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Democracy and Mass Media

07 November, 2007

By Dr. Tanvir Hussain Bhatti


Democracy withers away in the presence of shackled freedom of expression. In a democratic country public voice telecast and publicized through independent mass media determines the decisions of the government. This generates self-confidence in the average Joe to ensure that they are the bona fide masters of their destiny in their nation state. In a fascist country the demos’ right to be heard is deliberately muzzled by hobbling the neutral reporting. This pulls the plug on grooming of the creative faculties of the civil society and louse up natural abilities and erudition of the citizens that bloom and flourish in an elegant way in a free atmosphere. Therefore, snuffing out the print and electronic media to clamp down the public tone is to throttle and torpedo democracy while catering liberty of speech to the mass communication to project reality is to endow life-line to the republic. The publication and broadcasting breathes at a subsistence level under the thumb of the totalitarian snooper establishment because the coercive hammer men use backhanded tactics to crush liberty of speech to perpetuate their despotic rule.

The print and electronic media are the main organs of a democratic state that succor in the formation of fair-minded and undoctored vox populi. Under glass reportage toeing the line of the administration hammers into the minds of the hoi polloi a particular point of view. Therefore, the people fail to judge state of affairs as disinterested observers due to their queer up outlook indoctrinated by the bonded and biased media. The omniferous multitude view is the chief motivating force that can act as a steppingstone to establish democracy. Democracy means the government of the people, by the people and for the people but if a regime put a lid on the colloquy of the rank and file when they rap the unjustified actions of the authorities which abrade their fundamental rights that repressive regime cannot stake out any claim for democratic dispensation.

 In a country bereft of independent confabulation the state apparatus helps certain chucklehead zillionaires to prevail the whistle-stop tour. The fat cats flash their dough to hire the handcuffed ear-basher and penny pincher newshounds who propagate these unapt nominees of the King’s party as national heroes and emancipators of the public while the curtain from their black deeds is not raised. Thus on-velvet ineligible contenders wear the crown because of the one-sided public opinion molded through the fettered media. In this way deserving proficient politicians meet their Waterloo in the contest and the well-healed incapable palm-pressers are given a free hand to play with the fate of the nation, hoping against hope for a final reprieve. After wielding the scepter the mucky-mucks become white elephants and prodigally squander public funds for luxurious activities and self-promotion through plenitude coverage in the incarcerated newspapers and electronic channels.

 A self-regulating mass media can play the role of a watchdog in monitoring the electoral process. They can send their personnel to various polling stations to scrutinize the credibility of the electioneering. They can also keep a sharp eye on whether the state machinery rally round particular candidates to win their spurs. After this regular scanning of the voting modus operandi the chances of success of the genuine popular representatives having deep roots in the public would perpetually swell. Ultimately, only the unadulterated civic delegates would wear the laurel wreath that would strengthen the bedrock of well-grounded democracy. Therefore, in a country struggling for democracy to take its course the popular political parties having grassroots public support should join hands to liberate the print and electronic media from the tentacles of the establishment to ensure free and fair elections.

Under lock and key media are the marks of autocratic rule that can washout the process of sprucing up of the nations on moderate lines that pave the way for Bolshevism and Nazism to profoundly imbue. Such paper and electronic media cooling its heels can smash-up global peace. Hardhead ball of fire Adolph Hitler used his powerful prejudiced press to instill blind German nationalism. This canopy of blinkered ethnocentrism triggered World War II resulting in the millions of casualties. This horrendous paradigm corroborates that erroneous yellow-journalism in irons can jeopardize international harmony by inculcating bellicose views. Therefore, in order to ascertain global synchronization for peaceful co-existence the mass media should not inflame the already smoldering and simmering situations that can wreak havoc.

A wrongheaded windbag media by creating hype of a trivial issue can trigger a war. But now the world is poised on the horns of a dilemma because it has gone nuclear that has made the survival of man tremendously precarious. It cannot afford the luxuries of horrida bella and hard knocks because of the presence of dreadfully deadly weapons in the arsenals of several countries. Therefore, sanity demands that the international media should carry out an optimistic job to resolve twiddly global disputes instead of further complicating them by adding fuel to the fuel. They should work to bring worldwide community close to each other instead of driving wedge by creating bad blood between them. There are several countries at daggers drawn due to the abnegating role played by the jaundiced media through cock-eyed and knock-kneed reportage.

Every government since the birth of Pakistan took drastic steps against journalistic writings and newshawks. The media always worked as the mouthpiece of the regime in the driving seat. The dictatorial governments adopted stringent measures to curb the libertarianism of yackety-yack to put the kibosh on downright enunciation. Recently the establishment issued strait-laced Pemra Ordinance to rein in private media channels due to the coverage provided to the CJP rallies and their freewheeling flak of the government actions. But due to fervent opposition of the international community it withdrew the unyielding Ordinance. However, the monitoring authorities time and again serve notices to the private TV channels to pin down their latitudinarianism of parlance.

Torture of journalists during the last week of September in the federal capital expose the liberty of locution conceded to the media by the men on a good wicket. These are immensely stand-offish moves by a government who claims that it has provided unprecedented freedom of expression throughout the history of Pakistan. These prevarications bear out that although the current regime has granted unhackneyed liberalism to the media but more than this they have glommed liberty due to introduction of private TV channels. But ironically certain broadcasting channels transgressed all bounds of license of articulation that provided lame duck justification to the dignitaries for imposition of emergency that switched the prospect of democracy on an off-the-beam track without any gleam of anticipation. The level of media autonomy is the gauging parameter for democracy. Thus in a country struggling for democracy the mass media has to travel a long way with indomitable will and dauntless courage on a bumpy road to get comprehensive and responsible independence to pave the way for founding infallible public rule. Democracy will automatically take firm roots when the media will acquire complete amenable sovereignty.

A genuine representative government will only be established when the people would have awareness about their rights and their voice would be heard. But ironically firmly entrenched feudalism is still prevalent in Pakistan that is hampering democratic set-up. The bone-idle and indolent-minded feudal lords deliberately keep the cash-strapped half-pints oblivious to the march of time to rule over them in an arbitrary way. It is the evenhanded media that generates acquaintance in the society about individual rights. Therefore, entire transcendence of media is of paramount significance so that all and sundry can recognize their fundamental rights guaranteed by the constitution.

In democratic countries freedom of expression is considered as a precious treasure that is indispensable to promote sensible cerebral flair. But satirically some irresponsible carrot-crunchers and pencil pushers contravene all perimeters of decency in this context when they are purveyed unbridled liberty of loquaciousness. Freedom entails responsibility and irresponsible use of free will leads to chaos and commotion. Therefore, in the future the waves of the air would determine the fate of mankind that is becoming dicey with each passing day. Paradoxically, in antidemocratic countries where free speech is cramped the result is suffocating ambiance of frustration leading to the birth of uncountable social evils and psychological illnesses that peter out the concept of human society.

Media are the compact pacts of information. Therefore it is essential that the reportage and coverage should be correct. A man with a bee in his bonnet can botch up the views of thousands and sometimes of millions through misinformation and disinformation. Rectified thought transference after sifting reality from mendacity reflects the true picture of the society. But scrambled information burst out immense intricacy to handle mind-numbing predicaments of the community. A society based on falsehood cripples very soon because of its brittle foundations while a society embedded on truth can brave challenges. Therefore, the news is the touchstone of the social order. Although it is incredibly thorny to speak and spread veracity in a scam-spattered society but it is also a bald fact that only those icons of integrity stay alive in the golden chapters of the history who jot down and express verity in the most difficult circumstances while the counterfeiters, mythomaniacs and uncle Toms fade away in the murkiest chapters of the ancient times.

In this era of information technology the media can reform a sloth-rumpled and sleep-crumpled nation through depersonalized reportage. There must be freedom of expression to nurture innovative potentiality and to nourish intellectual proficiency of the nation. However, there must be certain principles and code of ethics to check disingenuous media propaganda to safeguard national imperatives and to lick into shape the future progeny on temperate and up to date configurations. Some of the tergiversating media and their gurus are ruining the moral fabric of the contemporary generations by raking up fat wads of notes. These skinflint flagrant and spurious practices are scooping out foundations of the society and eroding character of the contemporaneous youth. There is crying need to bring the illegally working insurgent and rabid media channels into the fold of law. The authorities should crack down on the hate generating rogue radio stations unlawfully operating in the lawless Northern Areas of Pakistan.

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