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For the survival of media’s independence in Pakistan

In 1999, then COAS General Pervez Musharraf imposed martial law and removed the elected Prime minister from his position. Smaller opposition parties who were competitors of PML N government and had their own grievances against it were rejuvenated. They saw an opportunity to get rid of a government that seemed too proud and egoistic. The reason given by COAS Pervez Musharraf for imposing martial law and throwing out an elected government was that PML N government had crossed the ‘red line’.

Years later, these smaller parties suffered the same persecution at the hands of those whose coming to power they had celebrated by distributing sweets, and had to combine under the leadership of same Nawaz Sharif (in APDM) to fight for restoration of democracy in Pakistan.
Today, the politicians seem to have learned a lesson. They realize that they all need to climb the mountain using the same rope. No matter whoever is winning the race to the top, the rope has to remain intact or everyone will fall down.

Pakistani media is nascent and immature. It makes mistakes, forgets its ethics and even works for vested interests. But the same media has given a voice to Pakistanis and an average Pakistani feels much more represented today than he ever was. All in authority are questioned and mistakes made by different institutions are pointed out. Press clubs in each and every city are platforms where public visits to record their protest and submit their complaints on different issues. The public therefore looks towards the media to represent its problems to those in power.

Today, the leading media channel GEO News has without doubt crossed the ‘red line’ by criticizing country’s most powerful intelligence agency. Rightly or wrongly, mistakenly or purposely, propaganda or reality, it is a fact that GEO News did bluntly criticize the primary intelligence agency without a proof and has also shown such irresponsible behaviour in past.
It is now common news that GEO's irresponsible behaviour led to hue and cry by other channels and labels of traitors, Indian apologists, propaganda makers etc. were placed on GEO News. I agree that accountability of media is necessary and PEMRA should take action against GEO News if it found after independent investigations that it has abrogated the law. Heavy penalties should be imposed and explanations sought. But the point of view of GEO's editorial board and the reality behind threats by intelligence agencies to Hamid Meer before the attack should also be investigated. Other Media houses shall not see an opportunity in GEO’s misery.

If other media houses continue to criticize GEO, ask for a ban on it etc. and if they are successful in getting GEO banned as a result of mass propaganda and due to a negative public perception rather than thorough investigation, then one shouldn't expect the freedom of media to remain in this country. I say this with certainty as our history tells us that it takes decades for democratic norms to prevail in Pakistan but only a matter of days until mass propaganda causes tensions to reach a level where it becomes acceptable for these democratic norms to be crushed under ‘boots’.

We journalists have to learn a lesson from politicians and realize that what we are playing with is a two way sword and if not handled carefully, will kill us all. The ultimate losers then will not only be us but also public and democracy. No matter who leads the race to the top of the mountain, the rope has to remain intact for the survival of the whole media.

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