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Does the Pakistani Media Have No Ethical Standards?

There was recently a video circulating on Facebook. It was of little Abdullah in an Edhi Centre, being forced to talk by a reporter. The little child seemed so depressed and tired, and she was prodding him with questions like, “Abdullah, where is your mother?”. If that was not enough, she went on to give him her mobile phone and told him to talk to his mother who was on the end of the line. The look on the poor child’s face made me cry.

For all those people who have not been following little Abdullah’s case, his mother had been brutally murdered and the child was left at the centre. Why would anybody in their right mind tell a child to talk to his deceased mother on the phone? What sadistic pleasure would anybody derive from this? I doubt such questions would even increase the so-called ratings of the channel.

The reporting quality in Pakistan has gone to the dogs. Channels are trying to outdo each other in creating sensationalism: who can show the most dead and mutilated bodies, who can reach the loved ones of the deceased first, who can first capture the video of the dying… you get the drift.

Examples of such blatant lack of basic human compassion and ethics abound in particularly the electronic media: the show Inaam Ghar was banned for three days for airing a video of a girl’s suicide. More recently, “exclusive” footage of the murder of renowned singer Amjad Sabri was displayed on many news channels.

The role of regulatory bodies and journalist associations in creating ethical standards cannot be emphasized enough. PEMRA seems to be hypervigilant in banning contraceptive ads or dramas highlighting child abuse which can actually be of some use in raising awareness among the masses. But where does it go when TV channels are abusing the basic human right to dignity? Don’t the citizens of our country deserve even the minimum amount of respect and compassion that they should be shown disfigured and bleeding, clothes torn, lying on stretchers? Women being asked how they “feel”, now that their sons/husbands/brothers were blown to bits hours ago?

It is not only the government which has failed us. It is us as a nation who have forgone our self-respect. When Junaid Jamshed mentions that one of the mothers of the faithful used to be jealous, he is sharply criticized – later, even beaten up. But when a mufti threatens a woman on a live show to “take off her shalwar”, there is no reaction apart from the mild reaction from the feminist movement.

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