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Friday August 19, 2022

‘Media should aim to be accurate instead of being first to report breaking news’

February 11, 2018

While breaking a news story, media outlets should aim to be accurate instead of being the first to report it because being a reliable source of information is a better business model than merely going after ratings, Secunder Kermani, a journalist with the BBC, said on Saturday.

He was speaking as a panellist at a session titled ‘Electronic media: Making and breaking the news’ on the second day of the Karachi Literature Festival being held at Beach Luxury hotel. Other panellists included senior journalist Ghazi Salahuddin and anchorperson Dr Huma Baqai, while Fasi Zaka moderated the talk.

Kermani opined that the advent of social media was democratising the industry and it has proved to be a great tool for journalists as well, which is evident in the cases of Zainab, the child from Kasur who was raped and murdered, and Naqeeb Mehsud, the aspiring model who was killed in a fake police encounter and labelled a terrorist.

“Although incidents like these were happening before as well but when their stories came on social media they made trends, bringing the cases into limelight,” he said.

Comparing the British and Pakistani media, Kermani said that in UK people had lower trust in news outlets and were sceptical of their agendas, while it was opposite in Pakistan. “Though the [audience’s] trust is very high [here] but the level of objectivity [in the media] is quite low,” he said.

With power comes great responsibility and there should be institutionalised regulations to stop the deliberate spread of wrong information, he said.

Kermani said there was a need for electronic media to make space to air investigative long form stories as well.

He added that people are intelligent and the media needs to communicate with them as such. “They can punish media outlets spreading lies by not viewing them,” he said.

Senior journalist Ghazi Salahuddin said that although everyone has the right to have an opinion and express it, but no one should be allowed to play with facts. Talking about the current media landscape in the country, he said it was clear who was spreading fake news but nobody could do anything about it. “There is no rule of law,” he remarked.

Salahuddin added that the media industry is quite different from what it was 20 years ago. “There wasn’t such a big audience [then]. In this age of multiplicity everyone wants to grab attention. So the rumours turn into conspiracy theories,” he said.

He lauded social media’s role in bringing a drastic change in the media landscape. “The war of media is to take society towards progress so that people like Mashal and Malala can live in this country,” he said.

Salahuddin said intolerance is a dangerous thing and seems to be backed by powerful players here.

He said that print media is relatively objective than electronic media, but in the prevalent situation in the country where certain state institutions cannot be criticised, it is quite difficult to do television news reporting.

On a lighter note, Salahuddin said that a newspaper was a nation talking to itself, while TV was a babysitter for people who couldn’t think.

Following up on this, Kermani, the BBC’s Pakistan correspondent said that it is not the duty of a journalist to serve someone’s nationalist or patriotic agenda but their duty is to report the truth.

He added that in Pakistan, journalists especially those working in Balochistan, were caught between a stick and a gun.

Dr Huma Baqai, anchorperson and analyst, said that the war of media houses among themselves to harness power has been on a dangerous tide and unfortunately it seems that some news anchors when on their shows leave their objectivity, thinking, ethics and intelligence at home.

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