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Media Ethics

Tahir Yousuf

The writer is a journalist.

Ever since the Pakistani media was liberalised in 2002, channels upon channels have been launched over the years. With the passage of time, Pakistani media has become diverse and touching the topics which once were considered forbidden for public consumption.

In the same vein, media in Pakistan has become an industry that is following its own agenda. The unrestrained news channels are involved in a mad race of breaking news syndrome in order to gain the audience instead of delivering correct information to viewers.

Commercial interest of media to generate revenue never let it to observe public service message time. News channels dramatize the event to make them saleable which is against media ethics. For example, PIA flight crashed in Karachi, and the broadcast coverage by local television channels was deplorable, horrifying, and utterly disgraceful.

Journalists were seen screaming into microphones that they had recorded footage of all injured and dead, so that ‘we can bring it to you first’. The TV anchors are losing their credibility as they are found biased and manipulate the issue most of the time, serving their owners or other specific stakeholders for petty gains.

Sensitive issues regarding gender are highlighted in a vulgar way. Yellow journalism and inappropriate division of time for coverage of news event and personalities through broadcast media raised the question about media ethics.

Sensation above sense has emerged as the blueprint for media houses in order to get higher Television Rating Point (TRP). Professionalism and media ethics have taken a back seat for the last few years. Diversion of media from their core democratic responsibilities is inevitable as its existence depends upon high ratings of TRP.

Another effort towards securing higher TRPs manifests itself when the media channels display a clear association with any ideologies or political parties. In every sense, broadcast media showed the utmost level of unethical, despicable, and frankly disgusting behaviour.

Although the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulation Authority (PEMRA) has been in place for the past 15 years, no considerable steps have been taken to contain the ‘commercial spiciness’ in Pakistani media. The media should be representative of the overall society.

Media ethics requires a balanced coverage of all important aspects of society. The first step on the road to ensuring ethical journalism in Pakistan is to establish and agree upon a universal best practices code of ethics, combining the many versions that float about today.

They need to be clear, unambiguous in their language, and follow established guidelines for ethical reporting. Pakistan needs to revolutionise the way content is developed for the average viewer. Media ethics is very crucial for society and the government and private entities should establish institutions in this regard.

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