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Pakistan Today

Published Date: May 8, 2012

MEDIA PROMOTING STATUS QUO IN PAKISTAN: SDPI

Although the media has become one of the powerful factors in term of its impact and ability to shape the narratives, it is simultaneously facilitating the overall change process and promoting the status quo in Pakistan. The media has a weak reformist role as its functioning and internal governance are largely dominated by the commercial interests as opposed to public interest, said the speakers at a panel discussion on ‘Media: a catalyst for change’ organised by Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) here on Monday.
Speaking during the discussion, Dr Moeed Pirzada of Pakistan Television (PTV) said Pakistani media, in terms of its impact and ability to shape the narratives, has become one of the powerful factors today. He said the media focuses on governance that affects society and state. He added Pakistan’s media, in last 10 years, has played an important role in shaping the narrative, especially about the historical events such as 7th March 2007, 12th May, 3rd November, and restoration of the judiciary.
Talking of critical internal governance of the media industry, he said the people had expected change in favour of public, especially after 7th March, 2007, but the media could not do so for a number of reasons, including its expanded commercial interests and absence of a regulatory code. “The space which media has been able to create for public is now been taken over by the business people,” he went on saying.
Senior journalist Fahad Hussain was of the view that strengthening of institutions in Pakistan has been uneven and currently the traditional society is in the transitional phase. He said now power is depleting from the state’s powerful institutions such as military, bureaucracy and ruling elites to people. He said shift in power has taken its roots from state to individuals as they have become powerful voters, customers and citizens, claiming their human rights through legal safeguards. “Earlier, the state was talking down to people without any bridge, now the media has emerged an entity between the state and the people, and the people are talking back to state through the media,” he maintained. The media has shattered the power and monopoly of the state over information. He said, but in many ways, media is also promoting status quo of powerful institutions. SDPI representative Ejaz Haider said the media was significantly contributing to the overall process of evolutionary changes in Pakistan. He said there prevail certain pre-supposed notions about the media as to whether it somehow stands over and above the state and society, weak reformist role of media, domination of commercial interests as opposed to moral interests and finally in terms of its functioning, media seems a single entity but it’s actually not.
He said the media has been able to change the attitude of state institutions and power is now defusing someway but modernisation does not mean decentralisation of power in favour of public interest. Criticising manipulative role of the media, he said Americans played with global public opinion in Iraq war through the media and it also happens elsewhere. “The biggest change is that we have started talking now, which was not the case in the past due to strong influence of state institutions over the media. On the other hand, rise of technology, also in the media, has led to different challenging dynamics,” he concluded.
Others were of the view that that the media does exercise a strong influence during spot reporting about what happened, due to many factors, including fear or commercial interests. Also, the media can play extremely influential role with regard to investigative journalism if the reporting is supported by quality research work done by credible think-tanks.