Here’s Why Pakistan Media Cannot Show The Version Of ‘Truth’ Tariq Jameel Wants
The truth Maulana Tariq Jameel wants Pakistani media to tell is a religious concept and media as an inherently secular institution is not required to represent truth as a philosophical or religious concept or idea, writes Umer Farooq.
“Naani ne Khsam kia bora kia kar ke chor dia aur bora kia” (Grandmother got married, it was a bad decision, she got divorced, it was worse), this old Urdu proverb aptly depicts the situation of grand religious scholar Maulana Tariq Jameel finds himself in. He first accused media of telling lies and later retracted his accusation as in his own words he surrendered and sought apology from the media persons.
The other day Maulana Jameel, in the presence of Prime Minister Khan, in his typical melodramatic style accused Pakistani media of indulging in telling lies on a massive scale. And when the media started to react, Maulana Jameel retracted his words. Maulana’s fear of the media onslaught seems to be behind his decision to backtrack on his accusations as obviously a man whose bread and butter depends on incessant and persistent publicity cannot afford to annoy television channels and some influence-mongering anchorpersons, whose track record of being credible journalists is far from enviable.
Accusing media and television channels of indulging in lies and deceit is nothing new—every XYZ does that and easily and comfortably gets away with it.
In case of Maulana Jameel, however, it is a different story—Maulana Tariq Jameel’s public persona was painstakingly constructed by the media (the same compulsive liar media) and now after the accusations he leveled against the media in a moment of unguarded emotionalism, the media was now threatening to bring down that image or persona of Maulana.
Pakistani television channels for the past five years have been treating Maulana Tariq Jameel as a star—he is presented as a mentor of many first rated sportsmen, actors and singers. He is presented as a person, who shows right path to these actors, singers and sportsmen, many of whom have grown long beards and have shunned their starry live for the religiosity, which Maulana Tariq Jameel preaches.
All this behind the scene activity that Maulana Tariq Jameel has been undertaking occasionally has been finding its way to Pakistani television screen, sometimes as break news. Maulana Tariq Jameel’s hobnobbing with the military top brass, especially with Army chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa and with the top order political leaders has been regularly making headlines in the media over the past five to six years. All this could be seen as regular input into the painstaking process to construct a public persona of Maulana Jameel.
At the top of it all are Maulana’s melodramatic appearances on television screens and his histrionics that are regularly broadcast on pro-establishment television channels all over Pakistan. Bringing this persona down would not have been very difficult for some of the leading news channels, provided they could take their own independent decision in this regards in the first place.
But Maulana Jameel is a novice in the complexities and dynamics of the world of media, despite being a high profile figure of Pakistani media world. The truth he wants Pakistani media to tell is a religious concept and media as an inherently secular institution is not required to represent truth as a philosophical or religious concept or idea. Media, all over the world, is faced with much more complex situation to handle—modern society is comprised of different groups, classes and institutions and all these entities have and want their own version of truths to be broadcast or published by the media. To quote an example here: For Maulana Tariq Jameel and his followers the truth is that the “Behaya” (immodest) women in Pakistani society is the biggest evil, whereas for the women who brought out Aurat March few months back the biggest truth is that Pakistani womenfolk are living a life under the shackles of patriarchy. And in a modern secular society it would be highly unjust of the media to represent one viewpoint as complete truth and discard the other as lies.
Truth is a complex concept and its religious version could be divisive for the society and beyond the call of duty of modern media to represent. In my own humble opinion modern media is not even required to represent the truth. Only old style party publications and ideologically inspired media outlets would have the authority or right to claim to represent whatever version of truth they want to represent. Modern media is there to present and relay information—which could be right or wrong –but it could not be claimed to be truth as any attempt to present a news as truth will produce its own orthodoxy, and orthodoxy which could be divisive and oppressive. Media cannot claim to represent the truth as it would make it part of orthodoxy.
The short duration of news cycle put a lot of pressure on the media men to check the veracity of information that his new outlet wants to relay to the public. Advent of news channels has further shortened the duration of this news cycle. Therefore media’s primary function of presenting the analyzing the information and facts has to be understood in the backdrop of tight deadline that they have to meet.
Secondly, there are occasion even the media has to report even the disinformation or misinformation. For instance if prime minister of the country (any prime minister) gives out an information, which turns out to be false, the media will have to report it in any case, no matter how much sure the editor of the outlet is about its falsity. Putting this information in perspective will be his job, though. Media is a game of information and facts and certainly not of truth. Maulana Tariq Jameel needs lessons in the complexities and dynamics of modern media and should not be allowed to impose his truth on Pakistani media.
Umer Farooq is an Islamabad-based freelance journalist. He writes on security, foreign policy and domestic political issues.