Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Dr. Fouzia's Open Letter to the Media on their coverage of Maulana Abdul Aziz's release

Dr. Fouzia’s Open Letter To The Electronic Media

I was surprised to see the attention, media coverage and airtime directly given to Maulana Abdul Aziz today. Being a concerned citizen who is fearful of the wave of violent takeovers of parts of my beloved country by Taliban, I need to register this request with our media channels.

Just a few days ago the positive coverage given by media to the Nizam e Adal could perhaps be justified given the hope that the peace agreement may stop the violence, given the fact that other methods had failed and given that the Taliban already had a strong hold in those areas. Even then, however, for many of us this was extremely depressing and it felt like a sell out and a bad precedence for future violent takeovers across the country.

In the air time given to Maulana Abdul Aziz, media has inadvertently become an accomplice in bringing the stronghold of Taliban right into the capital, all within a few days of the culmination of their victory in Swat.

We understand that media is free to cover any event and justify it with the standard ethics of journalism. It can make an issue out of a non- issue and a hero out of non-hero, a criminal to some of us, without violating their internal codes. Sometimes sensationalization of issues and graphic depiction of events make us uncomfortable, but we can accept the ‘freedom of media’ justification for it. However we expect you to have maturity in recognizing events that can have explosive implications if fueled through so much media attention.

In the case of the coverage of Maulana Abdul Aziz’s release, khutba and the Friday prayers at Lal masjid the media has helped him to carry his campaign to every nook and corner of the country. In his sermon he directly connected his movement to that of Swat and announced his mission of enforcing a similar system in other parts of the country. What he said once to a few thousand people has been repeated over and over to millions of people, only because of the media. In the garb of shariah we have already seen what he did in Islamabad.. Shops were burnt, people were kidnapped, weapons were used and women were threatened to quit their jobs and follow the system dictated by them. All of these were criminal activities.

In Swat they had to set up an FM channel to spread their message and succeed through the armed assaults on the local population. It seems that in the rest of the country they won’t need any FM channels. They can achieve results that are thousand times more affective, if the electronic media channels continue their indiscriminant coverage of such events.

While we recognize the competition between the channels to report the same event and the desire to turn events into exciting and interesting breaking news, there should be some social responsibility. We are very happy that Pakistan now enjoys a media boom and opportunities to hear diverse point of views, we hope that media will not unnecessarily generate sympathies and make heroes out of people who call for armed violence against all who oppose them.

Dr. Fouzia Saeed

A believer in freedom and democracy Please circulate to others

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