Freedom and (ir)responsibility

Jul 2nd, 2011 | By | Category: Media Watch

Newspapers that maintain a left-of-centre policy in Pakistan claim to be unbiased and independent on facts and reporting. However, they are often subjected to ruthless criticism by the rightist journalists and bloggers for misleading the facts and total biased reporting of events.

Maintaining a left-of-centre or rightist policy is the legal choice of the institution and its investors and news institutions have been doing so since past many decades. There have always been debates between the rightists and the leftists on academic issues and both the sides have published their arguments, leaving it to the readers to decide.

However, in the past couple of years and with the birth of several private media institutions in Pakistan, the standard and quality of journalism has dropped drastically. With shortage of professional and seasoned journalists in Pakistan, several media organizations have hired fresh graduates and MBAs for their editorial teams and without proper ethical training and guidance, they have been granted freedom to operate in the online editions of these newspapers and TV channels.

To add credibility to my argument, recently an English newspaper published a amateur blog, NOT an article from a seasoned journalist, on their website, which was well in accordance with their editorial policy. There is no point in arguing whether such amateur criticism should be published or not, but what happened next is more disturbing and reflects the state of our media industry professionals. The Tweet below, by the web-editor of the newspaper says it all!

Yes, thats what I am talking about. A journalist, who is assumed to be a responsible person (probably) is writing the wonderful remarks “Cmon, say it w me now… Fuck the JI,” as well as inviting his followers on Twitter to do the same. This comment is neither “centre-of-left” nor “rightist”, its just an unethical, immoral comment from a person, whose public tweets to promote the traffic on website are going unchecked.

There is no doubt that even the basic dynamics of journalism are changing and the story now initiates from tweeting and citizen journalism as argued by Paul Bradshaw, however, I couldn’t find any latest research on the fact that improper and unethical language can be used to propagate an ideology and attract visitors to the website, or in legacy terms increase circulation. Perhaps, its an old idea rejected by the educationists, so they don’t publish it on the internet anymore! I find no difference between the “Urdu Eveningers”, who publish Masala stories, sell sex and end up in increased circulation, and the more sophisticated “English Eveningers” who use almost the same techniques to increase their ranking on Alexa and increase the no. of tweets and shares on Facebook!

Having said that, let me re-iterate what I have been promoting since the past many years in the journalist community, that there is a dire need for a body that monitors the online editions of newspapers and TV channels for unethical and derogatory content. There is nothing as absolute freedom of speech. Because, with absolute freedom, comes mere irresponsibility! Thats what has been proven so far.

Tamjid Aijazi

About the author

Ahmed Tamjid Aijazi is a media consultant, journalist and political commentator based in Karachi.

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  1. Absolutely correct!

    All type of rights enjoyed by us Humans are coupled with Human Responsibilities as well!
    “Only ignorant of these responsibilities misuse Freedom of Speech, as a Right!”

  2. agreed mostly, but doesn’t JHaque’s tweet is meant to be his personal business and doesn’t have anything to do with his job and status

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