Friday, November 2, 2012

Violence and the Media

 By Dr A Q Khan

Every day 15 to 20 innocent people are murdered in Karachi, including some eminent religious scholars. Miscreants even managed to kill with impunity several people attending a public meeting arranged for Nafisa Shah, daughter of Sindh chief minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah. Another lady, a PPP MP, was ambushed, but luckily she survived.

I belong to Karachi. We migrated from Bhopal and were received with open arms by the local people. I never faced any discrimination of any kind and I still remember those wonderful days. I obtained my BSc degree from DJ Sindh Government Science College and worked in Karachi for three years before proceeding to Berlin for higher education. When the country faced mortal danger I offered my services to Mr Bhutto, who requested me to return to Pakistan and start our nuclear programme. It is thanks to Mr Bhutto and my KRL team that Pakistan is safe today from external threats.

However, the internal threats created by our leaders and politicians are a different matter and this has almost destroyed the country. My heart bleeds at the prevailing situation in Karachi. My mother, three brothers, a niece and my older brother’s grandson are buried there. My two sisters and one remaining brother, with their families, all live there. I visit Karachi regularly as a member of the board of governors of three universities and am familiar with the situation. I also have many good friends (industrialists, professors, engineers, politicians, etc.) there.

I was in Karachi on October 19 as chief guest at a function organised by the Bazm-e-Kiran Society at the Defence Central Library Auditorium. The president of this organisation, Mr Zafar Iqbal, is a good friend and a great social and literary worker. The society is engaged in the eradication of waywardness and other social evils in our society. Dear friend, great philanthropist and top industrialist S M Muneer presided over the function.

The auditorium was filled to capacity with hundreds of participants outside on the lawn to hear the proceedings. All those who spoke have been good friends for decades and are all well-known Pakistanis. Famous industrialist Mr Mehtabuddin Chawla also addressed the gathering. Mr Khalid Al-Aziz organised the function and Col Athar Ali Khan, general secretary of the society, gave a review of its commendable activities.

This was an important function and all the speakers expressed their reservations and worries about waywardness in society, extremism, terrorism and extortion and the not-so-positive role the media is playing in this. All were unanimous in their analysis that TV, in particular, was overactive in showing and propagating violent news scenes.

A bomb explosion is not only reported but becomes “breaking news” for the whole day with the same scenes being shown over and over again, and little else. Even worse is the prominence given to indecent Indian programmes, events and personalities. The marriage of Saif and Karina, the birthday of Amitabh Bachchan, the death of Yash Chopra and fashion shows are all elaborated upon.

While the dastardly attack on Malala (or a Hindu or Christian girl) was justifiably condemned nationwide, there are many other innocent men, women and children being killed in drone attacks, targeted killings, etc, that are not getting due importance or coverage. When I pointed this out to an anchorperson, I was told that the owners of TV stations fixed the policy and that the directors were to follow these lines.

Almost all TV stations are showing police detective series based on so-called facts. Right from the very first moment we are shown brutal scenes of violence against women, children, etc. While such facts do have to be made known, it does not have to be done in such a brutal, direct way. Remember TV series like Columbo, Police Commissioner (Rock Hudson), Kojak, etc.?

That used to be family entertainment. Nowadays one hesitates to sit and watch anything with younger children around because there are bound to be scenes of stabbing, shooting, strangulation (especially of women), blood-soaked bodies, etc. Even blood sports like cockfights, dogfights and bear baiting are shown just before hourly news. As if we don’t see enough violence already. It is particularly painful and horrible to watch.

Why can’t they show something loving like a cat licking and playing with her kittens or baby birds being fed? Research has shown that violent scenes have lasting effects on young children. I did mention this a few times to important TV bosses, but to no avail. The media, like it or not, is thrusting the culture of violence down our throats. It is a continuous psychological war, well conceived and well planned-simple brainwashing. Our young generation has become inured to seeing dogfights, partridge fights, buffalo fights, the shooting of migratory birds, hunting and the slaughter of animals.

Before Eidul Azha, we were shown cows and bulls worth Rs2 to Rs5 million and goats and rams worth hundreds of thousands of rupees. Much ill-gotten money is used to sacrifice not only one, but three or four animals and the meat is frozen and stored for future sumptuous meals in the coming months. Not only are the prices of sacrificial animals way beyond the means of the poor, so too are the spiralling prices of tomatoes, garlic, green chillies, ginger, etc. All attention is on food and one hardly hears anything about the history and philosophy of the sacrifice or of helping 200 families with Rs10,000 each instead of buying a bull worth Rs2 million.

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