Thursday June 20, 2024

Cheap fame, censorship and commercialism:all that spells doom for Urdu columns

By Ebad Ahmed
February 07, 2016


If a columnist has clarity of thought and his observations are actually honest in nature, he or she won’t need anything else for his writing. That is what I aspire to as I consider my columns to be the common man’s voice.

This was said by renowned columnist, Wusatullah Khan, at a well-attended session on the second day of the 7th KLF, “Columns sey Urdu Bloggers Tak”. 

Moderated by Wajahat Masood, the session panel featured Masood Ashar, Zahida Hina and Mubasher Zaidi along with Khan.

The panellists commenced with rich tributes to the late Intezar Hussain, with Masood Ashar reading out one of the columns, ‘Charaha Huwa Dhuwan aur Nasir Kazmi’, penned by the literary giant in the late 70s.

Wusutullah Khan said that, unfortunately, other than a few names, majority of the columnists today have been resorting to dishonourable means to gain popularity amongst the readers.

“Today, we fret over the fact that plagiarism is becoming a common practice among writers. However, this should come as no surprise because when the approach is geared just towards securing maximum ‘likes’ and shares on social media, there will obviously be issues with quality.”

As the conversation steered towards censorship, Khan informed the audience about the restrictions imposed on writers by local media outlets. 

“While I can even write against the security agencies, it is the corporate sector, Ahmedis and Balochistan which are the real no-go zones for me,” he said, on which Masood Ashar quipped that, recently, China too had found space on that particular list.   

Asghar Nadeem Syed stressed that a columnist should be merciless in his writings, as he should be the seeking to highlight that one point which could raise pertinent questions in the mind of his readers.

Decrying the questionable influence of political forces on writers, he said that in complete negation of journalistic principles, political battles were being settled on the op-ed pages of newspapers, rather than in the public sphere. 

“We now have people who can be described as commercial columnists,” he lamented. “That is why every column published in the opinion pages today is not really a column.”

Masood Ashar believed that with the electronic media having secured its place as the primary news source for the masses, newspapers were now largely read for the opinion pages.

This, he said, was why column writers were so well paid today and also why commercialism was fast damaging the sanctity of the opinion pages. Ashar noted that compared to the handful of popular English newspapers, there were no checks on language and content in the Urdu press.

Zahida Hina opened her talk by asserting that the writer’s gender doesn’t play any role in his or her success at opinion pieces. According to her, it remains the writer’s basic job to take into account the collective sensitivities of the public on whatever socio-political issue is being dealt with in a particular piece, and elucidate them in a balanced manner.