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Sidrah Zaheer

Media Bias against Imran Khan and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf

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In the earlier days, when there was only one television channel, that too state-run, PTV, everything was according to what the government wanted to present as, whether the ruling government was that of a civilian elected democratically or of a dictator reigning through a military coup. PTV was the government’s mouth piece and a source of state propaganda and still continues to play that role. Till the electronic media remained dominant with the sole monopoly of PTV, everything in Pakistan was green, happy and satisfied, hardly anything was wrong. At least nothing could be pointed out against the government of the day.

Since the past decade the country’s electronic media saw a significant and instant boom and many channels opened up. There were many expectations from these new channels, including that Pakistan will be able to project its soft image internationally and be able to convey the state’s stand in a positive light to the ever expanding world of communication, media and diplomacy. One of the expectations was and still is, electronic media fulfilling its responsibility of reporting free from any pressure and fairly. Media is considered to be the fourth pillar in any state. The reason that demand is made to the media is because of its power to communicate, shape opinions, inform public and create awareness about any issue.

There is no doubt that Pakistani electronic media can no longer claim to be in its nascent stage where it still has to learn how to deliver its duties. Even in the beginning it was no excuse, because the media owners should know what they are stepping into. With the media personnel being paid highly, there is no cause for media not to know what direction to take and what strategy to apply, if it is to be free and fair to all sides. The electronic media in Pakistan is known for its irresponsibility by heavily covering an issue for days and even months, and then all of a sudden taking its eyes off it completely with no follow-ups. It has been known to take issues and exaggerate their priority even when it is not significant to the big picture.

One of the worst things, that unfortunately Pakistani electronic media has become victim to like its counterpart in print, is of politically taking sides; that of going for one party or group and being against another. Of all parties, including all factions of the Pakistan Muslim League, Pakistan Peoples Party, Muttahida Qaumi Movement and other regional and provincial parties, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf has been particularly sidelined by the media in its coverage of PTI’s rallies, press conferences, and public statements. Whether their politicians and party workers try to use platform of a TV channel; in all of this, they often are ignored or not given due attention, if a little at all. The media ethics dictates that every political party or group be given equal opportunity of coverage and platform to share their ideas and policies.

Media is also supposed to negate the status quo which indicates stagnation against progress and development. Thus, being against the status quo, media is also supposed to be against the establishment, which does not let power go away from its side. Imran Khan has been labeled by his opponents in the media as part of the establishment. Anyone with a half a brain can testify that Imran Khan stands for anything but status quo and establishment. This can be seen through the demands he has from the government and the leadership that he promises the masses.

However, everyone is allowed to express their opinions independently and those writers, columnists, commentators and analysts who criticize PTI and Imran Khan in either print or electronic media have a right to freely convey whatever their viewpoints are. Being humans and as part of citizens of this country, having a little tiltation to one side or the other is understandable. Nevertheless, what needs to be kept in mind is that as political intellectuals, analysts are supposed to be neutral and their obligation is to evaluate a move by PTI or Imran Khan without a coloured perspective.

Those PTI supporters who do not get overexcited and overly passionate keeping their sense intact, have filed petitions on various online sites against media not giving coverage to PTI’s moves. Blacking out PTI will also not help any other political party though. Hence, whoever has come up with this plan upon which the media is working has totally misunderstood that people no longer need to be told, they already know without being told. They have made their choice and the wait is only for casting the votes. Thus, for the PTI supporters, they need not worry about being covered by the media as such since they know what path they are leading themselves to and on what path they want Pakistan to be led onto and by whom.

Another counter tactic against PTI is to pretend to be part of PTI and misbehave online with others who oppose Imran Khan and PTI so as to bring a bad name to the party. This defamation tactic is also an old one in the book of political rivalry. PTI officially issued a statement clarifying that Insaf Cyber Team is not associated with the party. These PTI trolls are unethical in their interactions and hence, the mainstream PTI cannot be held accountable for those supporters who are in nature uncontrollable. Even PTI has condemned its supporters, who mostly express their encouragement for Imran Khan and his party on social media, but make no logical arguments in their discussions.

Imran Khan, like every other politician is fallible. To think that Imran Khan cannot make any wrong move or incorrect decision or is free from corruption of any kind is actually absurd. There are corrupt people who are part of PTI and Imran Khan has clearly turned a blind eye to them for his political gain. However, this strategy is nothing new. Any politician in his place would do the same. Media is expected also to be the voice of the people. The only power in the post-modern world that people have is the strength of the media behind them. The ethics of journalism demands honest portrayal.

The masses clearly want change. They expect that change to come not from those who have already been on the seats of power and have devastatingly failed. But the masses want to try out new politicians to see how much they come up to their claims. The masses want to explore the potential of the likes of Imran Khan, who holds better prospects with the international community, not because he can communicate well in English or has a charming personality, not to mention a heroic career as Pakistan’s leading international sportsman, but because he still has to deliver given the opportunity. Hence, the cynics should not be the ones overshadowing against him in the media, but optimists should be welcomed who see potential and a new hope through Imran Khan for Pakistani nation.

But the media seems to again “sell” what runs the best knowing the lies of racist politics that PMLs, PPPs, and MQMs (all factions) conduct, the masses would be watching it as dummies. That they are still willing to be fed with those same old lies and false promises by failed politicians. Media has failed to realize that majority of those who are politically aware, from every last person, to those who are privileged to have had an education, the civil society, support this new tsunami of Imran Khan. Despite knowing this, not giving coverage and air time to PTI and Imran Khan is a clear proof the media bias exists against PTI and Imran Khan.

The politics of Imran Khan and PTI is not provincially or racially based, it is for the entire Pakistan. Imran Khan says that PTI is a party which any Pakistani can join regardless of their race or province, or religion or class. Unlike most other parties, which check sources before letting anyone in for a membership. If educated Pakistanis want to join politics, PTI offers the best door to enter the realms of power and use authority for the people, not against them; in the interest of the people, not filling personal foreign bank accounts.

Hence, the old tactics of the media gurus and their political pandits is something to which they are finding hard to fit Imran Khan and PTI. To handle the media, the public relations and media departments of these various political parties work 24/7, not because they have an important message for the masses, but to divert attention from PTI and Imran Khan who really do. Despite Imran Khan’s high public and international profile, the media finds a cause and a reason not to give him the due share of their time. The media did coin the term tsunami seeing the attendance that PTI’s rallies received in each of the major cities, but forgot to check the emergency the nation feels for a change which this tsunami proves.
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