Reimagining the political circus

The show of aggression among politicians is no news in Pakistan. In the history of national politics there is rarely any moment when we saw politicians following an ethical code of conduct and practicing the politics of coexistence while agreeing to disagree.

World over, the democratic tradition has allowed politicians and their followers to compete with each other. However, that convention of decorum is experiencing a shift. As the world is welcoming hardliners among the folds of government, the rhetoric of the party leadership is changing. The move from political beliefs to vested financial interests have deteriorated the sense of propriety that used to be the hallmark of the heavyweight politicians and the true democracies across the world.

In recent days political arguments and debates have been replaced by propaganda, sloganeering and hooliganism. Resultantly, masses too have become disenchanted as to their political obligations and we see fewer voters turning up to caste their ballots. While it is true that the trust in governments is falling among the democratic world, it has affected the level of civic engagement among citizens. Year 2017 World development report, World Bank, noted that the global voter turnout rate has nosedived by ten per cent in the last 25 years.

News media has borne witness to this change. As the fact of the matter, the prevalence of independent news media has allowed politics and its agents to voice their, sometimes, hostile views on air so much so that this narrative has become frivolus entertainment. At times, politicians are invited and or coaxed into take jabs at each other in talk shows and sequels of some talk shows allow the opponents a chance at attacking rather than ameliorating the situation by explaining issues plainly.

However, the politicians aren’t naïve. They enjoy taking the limelight and some have allowed more airtime to news channels than the time they would spend in their constituencies. In fact the attitude the politicians exhibit during their media appearances has been far better than that on the floor of the national assembly.  The recent months’ coverage of the sessions of the national assembly has been an eyesore.  Some analysts have argued that some of the media projections of the irresponsible behaviour of the politicians have been skewed allowing ambiguity to maintain the refreshment aspect of the proceeding.

Democracy allows the right of free speech to individuals and groups. However, competing to air opponents’ dirty linen scarcely qualifies as healthy politics. Media has a stake in that. Smearing campaigns and venomous attacks against political opponents isn’t entertainment. It is high time that media professionals set the right standards. In the recent case of fist-fighting among politicians media should call a spade a spade and clearly phrase their disregard for distasteful events, concentrating on revealing the true issues that amount to the rhetoric of hate.

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