Our media a watchdog or mouthpiece ?
THE notion of the press as a political watchdog casts the media as a guardian of the public interest.
The watchdog press provides a check on government abuses by providing citizens with information and forcing governments transparency. Public support for the media’s watchdog role is substantial.
Unbiased and imperial media can prevent politicians from doing things that shouldn’t be done.
Today our media has not enhanced the capacity of journalists to fulfil their watchdog role, even in an era of dwindling resources for investigative journalism. Information can be shared readily through formal media, as local news outlets can pass information about breaking events to national organizations. News also can be documented and shared by citizens through social networks.
The notion of the media as a political watchdog casts as a guardian of the public interest. The watchdog media provides a check on government abuses by supplying citizens with information and forcing government transparency.
Media prevents leaders from doing things that shouldn’t be done. Today’s new media has enhanced the capacity of journalists to fulfil their watchdog role, even in an era of dwindling resources for investigative journalism. Information can be shared readily through formal media sources, as local news outlets can pass information about breaking events to national organizations.
News also can be documented and shared by citizens through social networks. However, there are aspects of the media’s watchdog role that have become more difficult to fulfil. In some ways, the media has moved from being a watchdog to a mouthpiece for politicians.
This tendency is exacerbated by the fact that there is a revolving door where journalists move between positions in the media and government.
Today, the media acts as a mouthpiece for political leaders by publicizing and uttering their words and actions even when their news value is questionable. Politicians use Twitter as a mechanism for getting messages directly to their followers while averting journalistic and political gatekeepers.
Many of their tweets are of questionable news value, except for the fact that they emanate from the personal social media account. Yet the media acts as a mouthpiece by promoting tweets.
A silly or vicious tweet can dominate several news cycles. When someone puts it out, the other puts it immediately on one’s show. I mean, the other day, I put something out, two seconds later I am watching other’s show, it’s up. You know, you have to keep people interested.
Media is often accused of publishing fake news when that information is of the interest of some elites. When rumours and conspiracy theories are believed, they can have serious consequences.
The conspiracy theories are floated and spread on the media one after the other in turmoil political conditions.
When rumours and conspiracy theories are believed, they have serious consequences. New media has both expanded and undercut the traditional role of the press in a democratic society.
On the positive side, they have vastly increased the potential for political information to reach even the most disinterested citizens. They have created new avenues for engagement that allow the public to connect in new ways with government, and to contribute to the flow of political information.
At the same time, the coalescence of the rise of new media and post-truth society has made for a precarious situation that subverts the beneficial aspects.
Presently, it appears as if there are a few effective checks on the rising tide of false information. Substituting scandal coverage for serious investigative journalism has weakened the watchdog role.
The ambiguous position of the media as a mouthpiece for politicians, religious personalities and defence analysts render journalists complicit in the proliferation of bad information and faulty facts.
It is important to recognize that our journalism has never experienced a golden age where facts always prevailed and responsible reporting remained absolute.
Steadily growing manipulation of the media by a coarsening regulatory regime, driven by political compulsions of the deep state, is robbing the media of its integrity and, hence, audiences and influence.
A tottering economy is the bitter icing on this crumbling cake. The valour and vivaciousness that characterised the media’s ability to influence independent news’ agendas is gone and its voice is stuttering.
Despondency among media practitioners and even owners reigns as censorship increases by the day, fear stains the proverbial newsprint and huge question marks hover over the media landscape about whether Pakistan’s media ‘revolution’ for whatever it was perceived to be is over. From a ‘player’ it is becoming an ‘observer’ in the state’s structure.
Sustainability of the media is severely threatened in the current bust phase of its work cycle and, with it, the ability of the plural and diverse Pakistan to conduct a decent dialogue with itself.
How did the Pakistani media get here and what will happen next? Is the issue as simple as the Imran Khan Government withdrawing undue favours to a media used to living off taxpayer money, as some would have you believe? Or are state attempts to curtail the media to blame? We boldly question Premier Imran Khan why the media feels under siege?
—The writer is book ambassador, columnist, political analyst and author of several books based in Islamabad.