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Nasir Khan Jan, Qandeel Baloch and the failing standards of journalism

Could we prevent another tragedy in Pakistan?

What happened to Nasir Khan Jan on a popular Pakistan TV channel recently has caused public outrage, and rightly so.

The social media star was invited to a TV show that is supposed to highlight people who’ve carved an identity for themselves through hard work.

Nasir Khan Jan, although a controversial figure and notorious for his tacky and often crass content, has a sizeable following. Instead of asking Jan about this work, how he managed to gain such a massive fan following and conducting a proper interview – which is what he was invited on the show for in the first place– the anchors proceeded to humiliate him the second he stepped foot on set.

Right as Jan was sitting down, the male anchor turned to the camera and said “I was so happy when I came to know he’s not coming but anyways he’s here…” and then began hurling condescending remarks at his career choices.

What shocks me is the level of unprofessionalism displayed by the anchorpersons belonging to a reputable media organization.

As a reporter who interviews people every day, let me tell you that this was perhaps the most unethical display of journalism I have witnessed in my life.

In fact, it was outrageous.

Regardless of one’s personal opinions, a reporter NEVER brings their bias into an interview.

These are the BASICS taught to you when you study journalism. How is it that these anchors were allowed to sit on set and insult a guest that THEY INVITED in the first place?

This speaks volumes about the quality and standard of our country’s media. Had there been a BASIC SENSE of what journalism is about, this would’ve been unacceptable.

In fact, a scenario like this would not even have occurred in the first place because one would know that as a professional reporter, you don’t let your personal opinion drive the narrative of an interview, no matter how much you may personally hate your subject.

How is it that these presenters were not trained before being allowed on prime time television? Were they not taught how to keep their biases in check as a reporter? How to speak to talk show guests? Or simply, basic decency of how to train someone who has different opinions than yours?

Your duty as a reporter, as a journalist is to objectively present both sides. You could disagree with Nasir Khan Jan’s content – I know I do – or simply ignore it.

You DO have the option of willful ignorance in this case. Though the anchor issued an apology the next day, it serves little meaning in the face of the ratings that the show was likely seeking. To display such hateful behavior on a public platform is not just disgraceful, but dangerous.

Consider the case of Qandeel Baloch, another social media personality creating similar tacky and crude content.

At first, people mocked her, posted negative comments and criticized her behavior. But slowly, her fame grew and so did the public’s hatred, until it got so toxic that the hate incited her own brother to kill her in the name of honor.

As a nation, we suffer from collective amnesia. It hasn’t been that long since Qandeel’s murder shocked the world.

But could Nasir Khan Jan be another tragedy that we could perhaps avoid by practicing a bit more tolerance? By simply turning a blind eye to content that is crass, unintelligent and in bad taste at best?

Nasir Khan Jan has already been arrested once when members of his community deemed his content unsuitable and against cultural values.

Imagine what such public insults to a harmless social media figure – loved by many, hated by many more – could mean for Jan’s security?

What if a mob decides Jan’s fate for putting their communal “honor” at risk?

Lest we head for another Qandeel Baloch tragedy, let’s be more forgiving of our differences and worry more about the failing standards of media in this country.

A simple lesson in the ethics of journalism – if trained journalists are really so difficult to come by – would suffice, before putting just anyone in front of a camera.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are solely of the author and do not represent ARY policies or opinion.