Infecting media

Punjab police recently apprehended Imran Ali, the rapist and murderer of seven-year-old Zainab. His apprehension was expected to douse the emotional fury experienced by many Pakistanis, however that is not the case.

On the contrary, several questions have been raised by society regarding the safety of children and the nature of such offenders. In the past, criminal outfits have been involved in the production and distribution of child pornography, which horrified the masses. The public is demanding a purge of this societal evil of, and the danger it poses for future generations.

Amidst these debates, the media plays an important role in directing public discourse via information and informed social and technical analysis. The news of Zainab’s rape and murder has caused quite an upheaval.

The fruits of the Imran investigation were shared through social media to placate public sentiment and gain public trust in the law enforcement engines of the state. However, one prominent news anchor claimed that the truth is contrary to what is being projected. He claimed that Imran was an operative of an international criminal gang, including influential government personalities, involved in child pornography. The anchor disclosed that Imran had 37 national and foreign currency accounts. He claimed that he possessed relevant evidence and was asked to produce it in the court of law.

The nature of the accusation was grave. The apex court took notice and a Joint Investigation Team, JIT, was formed. However, the State Bank of Pakistan stated that the government could not find any accounts associated with the accused.

The anchor person proceeded to appear on Express News, where he said that the investigation was not his responsibility and it was the job of state institutions to figure out the authenticity of the news.

“I did not provide this information with malicious intent,” he said. He claimed that the suspect maintained over 37 bank accounts, mostly foreign currency denominated, with transactions in dollars, euros and pounds sterling. He had repeated the allegations in the Supreme Court on Thursday.

The story was given a new twist on Thursday, when Masood handed over two names written on a folded paper to Chief Justice of Pakistan, Mian Saqib Nisar, of people who were allegedly behind an international racket running a child pornography ring. Fact of the matter is that he failed to produce concrete evidence to support his claims. When a couple of senior journalists, who were invited by the court, tried to persuade him to withdraw his statement, he got angry and kept repeating loudly, “I will not leave them.”
Masood is not the only one in Pakistani media with a flair for exaggeration. After the mushroom growth of news channels, a huge flock of non-journalists masquerading as  anchors occupied various screens and turned the sacred occupation of journalism into a dirty profession by practicing something which is quite far from the actual definition. This phenomenon started taking place after business tycoons became media house owners, and proceeded to abolish the tradition of editorial control.

The tragedy of Pakistani media is that highly professional and fine journalists are usually placed beneath people like Masood in various news outlets, which has severely compromised the quality of journalism in Pakistan.

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