Press talk with the PM


On March 24, Prime Minister Imran Khan got together the senior electronic media journalists, the well-known and famous talk show hosts, to talk to them about the coronavirus and the preventive measures his government was taking to stop its spread. No doubt the coronavirus has become the biggest challenge of Imran Khan’s leadership and the very idea of calling these journalists for a one-on-one session on the subject was not bad as most of us are now “home quarantined” and glued to our TV screens, thus the more informed these programme hosts are, the more likelihood of them being unprejudiced, unbiased and objective in their analysis when speaking on the subject of coronavirus. Thus the strategy of the government to call them for an informative session on the subject was well thought-out and not a bad one.

Courtesy:  Aaj TV

Unfortunately, most of these renowned electronic media show hosts did not carry themselves well during the questions and answers session. Most asked questions that had nothing to do with the subject of coronavirus. Their questions and remarks were mocking, sarcastic, scornful and it seemed that not one but all of them had come with a preconceived idea of running the PM down on matters that had nothing to do with coronavirus.

While there is discipline and protocol that we all practise all the time at our homes, schools, universities and offices, why such discipline and protocol was not practised by these senior journalists while questioning and engaging with the PM of the country? Words like “mein nay aapkagiraibaanpakrnahai (I will catch you by the scruff of your neck)” were absolutely unbecoming of a mature and seasoned journalist. Almost all of them gave a clear impression that they had undertaken a pre-meeting decision to be harsh on the PM and as it transpired each sounded more sarcastic, rude and mocking than the other. Why?

These electronic media journalists turned doctors, engineers, economists, professors, defence analysts and foreign policy specialists are the product of a national wave of ‘mediacracy’ which is actually a neutraliser and an antidote to democracy. Mediacracy, a concept applied not by all but a selected few, is very self-benefiting and can be defined as “propaganda of the people by the people for the people”. Actually, no other profession offers a shelf-life (the length of time a commodity may be stored without becoming unfit for use, consumption or sale) that can match the shelf-life possessed by hosts of electronic media programmes. While all of us retire at some age they become more seasoned and professional and politically indispensable with every passing year thus acquiring a shelf-life that most of us envy and the politicians fear. The more senior they become the more acquaintance they earn with the occupiers of the highest offices in the country.
Some of them become the ‘bandwagon jumpers’ and a close scrutiny of their performances and the media houses they are associated with tells us a lot about which side of politics they tilt towards in this country. No wonder, if they time their jumps right, they can catch fortunes and being in the right bandwagon means cartwheeling only towards professional success and excellence. Those of us that do PhDs get a hard time seeking a job, their degrees are scrutinised not only at the institution where they serve but also by higher authorities like the HEC that oversee the verification of these degrees even when they are allotted by HEC authorised and recognised universities. Professing with their PhDs and specialisations, these doctors still don’t meet the standards of the universities as until they don’t publish one to two research papers annually, they keep getting warnings and notices of being thrown out of their jobs.

What degrees do these renowned hosts of the electronic media programmes hold and what standards do they meet? We don’t even know if they are actually qualified to speak on the subjects on which they run their programmes. What has stood out as an essentiality once again is the dire need of “managing and regulating our electronic media”. Those that met the PM on March 24 were the best in the business and what they showcased to most of the “Pakistan watching” was their biased and unprofessional approach to the entire purpose of holding this meeting, which was “addressing public concerns on coronavirus”.

The public and the entire media, including the seasoned programme hosts who met the PM, are witness to how the Nawaz Sharif- and Zardari-led governments functioned in the past. What contradictions their governments addressed, and which institutions grew in their standing and stature during their tenures. Were they ever there to hold public conferences and speak to the media as consistently as PM Imran Khan does?

Can passivity be termed as policy? Could you be termed as a leader if you hesitate to talk or take the final plunge on matters that are of national importance? Could you be called a leader if you procrastinated when faced with the tough choices?

We all know that we face tough times and it is difficult to find a cure; but do we remember the times when “the cure was worse than the disease”? When the institutions were being forced to become accomplice to the corrupt and criminal policies of the governments. Where was the ‘watchful brigade’ of these hosts of electronic media programmes? Political power during those times was not defined as “best expressed by sharing” but was defined as “the opportunity to acquire riches and prestige, to be in a position to hand out benefits in the form of jobs, contracts, gifts, free rides to Hajj, etc, to relatives, bandwagon jumpers and political allies”. Trash, unclean cities, closed industries with no electricity to operate them, rampant corruption with no job opportunities all overseen by political appointees whose vested interests could only be served not by the cure but with the continuity of the disease that spread and sickened the entire country.

What has changed today is that we have a leader who is focused on changing the people’s attitude towards themselves, their state and majority of the poor people who live in it. What we are looking at is a leader who wants to mobilise the society to make the state work better, who not only wants to deliver more but deliver right. To the senior journalists who let themselves down in the meeting with the PM, I would like to say in the end that “meritocracy values a sovereign whereas mediocrity always resents and contests it”.

The writer is a freelancer

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