Tragedy, death toll, wreckage, bloodshed, in short human misery and suffering is all what people in Pakistan have been witnessing on their television sets since the last few weeks. Apart from the dead ones, even the living beings presented on the TV are in such miserable condition that your heart goes out to them the instant you see those people on screen.
The moment you turn on the TV for news update, you are hit by some devastated news of a certain area and you feel like switching off the TV that very instant. But still we watch after all we must be updated, how else we will be able to discuss the current scenario with our surrounding if we are not well informed! Yes, we are a well-informed nation if not anything else I must confess.
Whether the reason is target killing on the streets of Karachi, an act of terrorism in Peshawar, a plane crash incident in Islamabad or torrential monsoon rains all over the country leading to heavy rain, floods and landslides but we are certainly in the way of disaster heaved upon us by man and nature both.
Be it the picture of an elderly man crying for help, or some people hanging on to barbed wire to save their lives from the flood or children crying for food or people with shocked faces and lifeless eyes; but one thing is sure these pitiful images and videos on TV screens are hard to erase from memory.
Certainly the role of electronic media cannot go unnoticed in today’s world and especially in catastrophic situations such reports are a fine effort to depict the actual condition of the incident and its effect on people to the world through the lens of camera.
But the question arises: Is it humane to expose the misery of a family or people on TV at a time when the family is not even in a stable condition to express their feelings?
Every day we witness such scenes where some reporter is thrusting microphone (clearly indicating the name of the TV channel) in front of the victim in order to get firsthand account of the incident without giving a second thought about the frail state of mind of the victim.
What is even worse is that few newsmen consider the coverage of dead bodies, coffins, cemetery, and bloodshed as the true essence of reporting and argue that what is the use of visual medium when one cannot even show the true picture of the happening to the world.
But what they fail to understand is that the actual purpose of media is to bridge differences and to create harmony among peoples and not chaos.
However in this fast paced world, the actual purpose of media is becoming extinct just like many other morals and values from the societies all over.
Factual reporting and humanistic approach which used to be an attribute of a journalist (newsman) can be hardly witnessed nowadays. The media in its effort to break the news first on its so and so channel is far away from such attributes.
If we constantly observe the situation all around us and all over media, we find one common thing; that generally we all are living under a constant threat of fear.
To some extent, media is playing the deplorable role of spreading the cancer of chaos and fear in the minds of its audience. Fear of death, fear of inflation, fear of joblessness, fear of terrorism, fear of future and so on.
This fear along with frustration is leading us towards indifference – a situation which slowly creeps into the human mind when the mind and body both refuse to resist and accept the situation as it is.
Though our nation is not used to this fatal disease called indifference but now we are on the brink of it because of the prevailing general sense of hopelessness in our society. This disease of mind is growing because of the ineffective system of the state institutions which makes the general citizens feel helpless in every walk of life; and helplessness which leads to hopelessness which is the worst of all things.
Because for instance, if a hopeful person is seriously ill, he would try everything out, every doctor and every medication in order to regain his health. However, if a hopeless person even suffers from a mild fever, he might start having dreams of death already and thus would do less effort to recover from the illness.
Same is the case with our society suffering from the first stages of the diseases of fear and hopelessness. It is the right time to recuperate and reinstate the building block of hope into the wall of our society to recover from this illness. Because a hopeless person with nothing much to believe in, is in the weakest of all human conditions.
As ‘Medium is the Message’ it is the message of hope, trust and optimism that should be aired on the media and not the message of pessimism that is usually painted on our TV screens.
Since the importance and the benefits of the media are huge in quantity, there is an urgent need to utilize this medium in its rightful means by the media professionals so that the people and the societies can enjoy the true benefit of this amazing medium.
The responsibility of the media is a huge one, huger than can be imagined. Media must make the people realize that we are helpless because we are not performing our duties sincerely and have hand over our rights to certain people hoping that they will come forward for us whenever we need help and hence have freed ourselves of all the responsibilities.
This idea of looking up to others for help did seem to work well until this problem arises: that whenever we look up to the people above us, we only find them least concerned. Then all we do is criticize these entrusted people and feel that our part is over.
But by neglecting our duties, turning apathetic to the current situation by shutting eyes and minds, by shoving the responsibility off our shoulders and blaming others, what we forgot was that this attitude of ours will affect no one but us alone.
However it is never too late to make a change and the right time to change our attitudes is now!
It is time that we should stop blaming others (read: rulers) and wake up for no one else but ourselves. We should come out of the folly that some are born to be ruled and the others to be ruled.
Electronic media is certainly one of the best mediums available to bring a positive change in the minds of people and ultimately in the society. However today, the media is at a brink where it needs to take a break and look back at its achievements and shortcomings to comprehend its actual meaning and responsibility in a society like ours.
Corazon Aquino defines best the power of media in following words:
“The media’s power is frail. Without the people’s support, it can be shut off with the ease of turning a light switch.”
Though people with power may have no dreams, no hopes but at least people without power have dreams with hope and hope certainly is the best of all things.
Originally published in Fortress Magazine in November 2010.