Media role in fighting terrorism

Malik M Ashraf

IT is said that media and a nation rise and fall together. Because of this strong bond and connection between the two the media is known as the fourth pillar of the state. In the modern era, media has become a very strong entity that permeates almost every aspect of the national life and exerts a very strong influence in shaping opinions, attitudes and social behaviours. Media however is a two-pronged weapon.
It can be used for propaganda as the history corroborates, employed as a means to spread fissiparous tendencies within a society and foment chaos and instability in the country. On the positive side it can strengthen national unity, promote the process of national integration, reinforce social mores and norms, neutralizes divisive and negative narratives and helps in establishing an ambience of creativity and openness. It is however the positive role of the media that is regarded as a contributor to the task of nation building. And it is because of the two-pronged role of the media that it is expected to conduct itself in a responsible manner as propounded by the social Responsibility Theory which is known as the Magna Carte for the ethical and professional codes for media throughout the world.
A strong, vibrant and pluralist media is indeed indispensable for peace and progress of a nation. The independence and freedom enjoyed by the media in Pakistan at the moment is the best thing that has ever happened in this land of the pure. However there is also a down side to it. Pakistan now has more than fifty TV channels which are now dominating the market place of ideas. In their zeal to outsmart other competing channels and improve their ratings, they sometimes commit indiscretions which negate the ethical and professional codes for the media with all accompanying negative fall- out. That surely is irresponsible behavior.
The most recent example of this indiscretion and irresponsibility was noticed when after a blast in Defence area of Lahore on Thursday, a number of TV channels reported as a breaking news the occurrence of another blast in a hotel in Gulberg which turned out to be a hoax. Reportedly PEMRA has issued notices to 29 channels for committing this indiscretion not realizing the negative impact that it can have on the morale of the people and also portray the government and law enforcing agencies in dismal colours for their inability to control the terrorist attacks. The fight against terrorism is a national cause and it has to be fought collectively by all the segments of the society including media.
In this regard there is a need to understand that we are fighting against an invisible enemy, therefore it is going to be a long drawn out war which requires perseverance, determination, unity and a collective narrative. The nation might have to brace for more terrorist attacks till such time all the terrorist outfits and their followers are eliminated. There is also a requirement for highlighting the achievements of the government and the security forces and the sacrifices that have been rendered by them to check the phenomenon of terrorism in its tracks.
Media owes it to the nation to give a proper and positive perspective on all these things and play a supportive role in this fight. Unfortunately it has almost become visceral for some TV channels to take unimaginative umbrage at the government, intelligence and security agencies whenever a terrorist attack occurs. They must look at the history of those countries which have been through this phenomenon and it took them decades to quell the menace. Unfortunately the phenomenon of terrorism in Pakistan has an ideological dimension as well and the dogma being preached by the terrorist and militant organizations enjoys a wide-spread support within the society. That makes the things very convoluted and warrants treading with caution and developing an effective counter narrative that can effectively neutralize the narrative of the terrorists. Media surely can play a vital role in this regard.
In the wake of the recent spate of terrorist attacks which is the handiwork of the frustrated remnants of the terrorists, the government launched a country-wide crackdown against the terrorist followed by the initiation of operation ‘ Raddul Fasad’ which has already started producing results. There is no lack of commitment and resolve on the part of the government in taking the fight against terrorism to its logical end. That aspect needs to be highlighted to boost the morale of the people.
— The writer is freelance columnist based in Islamabad.

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