Home Global Village Saleem Safi in hot waters; asks for accountability of journalists! – Shiffa...

Saleem Safi in hot waters; asks for accountability of journalists! – Shiffa Yousafzai


Shiffa Yousafzai |

The crux of Prime Minister Khan’s first national address was the announcement of his ‘Austerity Drive’. He refused to stay in the Prime Minister’s Residence and instead moved into a small three-bedroom house of his military secretary. He announced he would just have two staff members rather than having a battalion of hundreds and will use only two cars. At Imran Khan’s oath-taking ceremony only tea and biscuits were served to the guests very unprecedented this was.

He also announced that his govt. will bring forth every year, for public and media, the evidence of amount being spent on him as compared to the previous premiers and expense of the PM House since he moved in compared to that of the previous ones in that residence. This is one of the things that even many with Mr. Khan, don’t like for themselves. This provided a field to Imran Khan’s critics to start doing their job unnecessary criticism. And one of them has been renowned journalist Saleem Safi.

A day before appearing on our show his article was published in an Urdu daily, in which he requested Imran Khan’s government to probe into the assets of journalists and media practitioners and he should be the first one to start this process with.

Saleem Safi is in hot waters for the last several days for probably what he reported about Nawaz Sharif paying for his own expenses while living in PM house. When Saleem Safi came to our show a couple of days ago on Hum News, he stood by what he reported from a briefing he said was held at PM office, where he found out that ex-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif paid for his expenses himself while residing in PM residence. Saleem Safi also explained that his news that he reported was factual and correct as no one from the PM Office issued a rebuttal disapproving what Safi had reported.

After Mr.Khan’s supporters took to social media and started to bash Saleem Safi, he tweeted with a picture of a cheque and a receipt of the expenses paid by Nawaz Sharif. Many including me witnessed that tweet with a picture of the cheque and bill. And the question that was raised in my mind was that the date on the bill was 9th Aug 2017 and on the cheque was 29th Aug 2017, while Nawaz Sharif was disqualified on 28th July 2017 so what he probably paid for was a bill which was due. Had he not paid those dues, it would have made the news.

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If I was to break that news the first question that I would probably try finding an answer to would be, what was Nawaz Sharif doing in the PM house after being disqualified? And what made him pay for those dues month after being disqualified? Was it the fear of accountability? Was it the fear of NAB and Chief Justice of Pakistan?

When Saleem Safi was being bashed many journalists like Asma Shirazi, Gharidah Farooqui, Fahd Husain, Arshad Sharif etc. came to his defense. A day before appearing on our show his article was published in an Urdu daily, in which he requested Imran Khan’s government to probe into the assets of journalists and media practitioners and he should be the first one to start this process with. Thus, to identify who is a journalist and who is the black sheep of the industry.

“If Imran Khan wins the election well and good if he doesn’t then he knows that he has to spend the rest of his life at the shrine of Pak Pattan”. And I was wondering if that was also trolling?

Before Saleem Safi’s request of journalists’ accountability, another prominent journalist Shaheen Sehbai had already tweeted about it and wrote, “MEDIA ACCOUNTABILITY: I fully support FULL accountability of media persons, incl ALL BIG NAMES, owners, anchors, etc. MUST declare assets 4 last 20 yrs, What Tax they paid, local ‘foreign properties, jets, BMWs, Travels etc. I will be 1st if Govt/NAB/Anyone asks ATTN LAW MINISTER”.

Mr. Sehbai then asked all those who support the idea of accountability of journalists, to retweet his tweet. I was not much surprised yet amazed to see that none of the prominent big names that we read in newspapers or see on our national television had retweeted the tweet supporting the accountability of the journalists. So, none of the journalists who extended their support towards Saleem Safi supported the idea of their accountability; hence, leaving the journalistic community as divided and as polarized as it always was.

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Furthermore, Saleem Safi said that the smear campaign against him did not stem out as a result of what he reported about Nawaz Sharif paying for his own expenses and the motive behind this campaign was going to come out in the next eight to ten days. He also accused the PTI chairman and Prime Minister Imran Khan of ordering their support base, their people to start this campaign against him.

Moreover, Safi said, “The process of bribing the journalists was started by the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz.” And after saying this when he was accusing Imran Khan of always launching personal attacks on people I was reminded of a program on Geo News where Saleem Safi was found saying, “If Imran Khan wins the election well and good if he doesn’t then he knows that he has to spend the rest of his life at the shrine of Pak Pattan”. And I was wondering if that was also trolling?

Reham Khan is another example of trolling but in that book, at least I am unable to figure out who is being trolled, the author of the book which is Ms. Khan or the subject of the book which is now a Prime Minister, Imran Khan.

Journalists amidst all that excitement of doing an interview that would give them the rating, at times forget that they are also crossing the line. Saleem Safi once interviewing Chaudhary Nisar had asked him, “You are a pretty decent man how come you became friends with Imran Khan?” Is this not a personal attack? Smear campaigns against anyone; man, woman, journalist, politician, artist, actors is condemnable and people could argue and prove their point in a decent way without using offensive, disrespectful and derogatory language.

Not just journalists but politicians also came out to defend Saleem Safi. For instance, Ahsan Iqbal former interior minister of Pakistan tweeted, “PTI Trolls targeting Salim Safi is an attack on freedom of expression.” I would like to let our respected former Interior Minister know what else trolling is. Calling a woman names like ‘Tractor Trolley’ is also trolling. And that isn’t done by any unknown troll but a representative of your very own party and it was none other than Khawaja M. Asif former minister of foreign affairs. So trolling is of different forms.

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There was a huge debate on how the First lady, Bushra Imran should or should not dress up. I feel this is trolling too. Nobody decides for anyone what to wear and how to dress up. Trolls are found in every political party, it does not belong to PTI only. And Journalists also have a troll inside them.

I remember a program on Geo News with an all ‘women’ panel and the subject was, “what is it that Bushra Imran has and Reham Khan and Jemima Goldsmith didn’t have?” Yes, this is how low our standard of journalism has dropped. Reham Khan is another example of trolling but in that book, at least I am unable to figure out who is being trolled, the author of the book which is Ms. Khan or the subject of the book which is now a Prime Minister, Imran Khan.

Journalism in Pakistan is like Pakistan’s democracy never really got a chance to nurture. There are no institutes for journalists to get principled training for the field. We have either been so unleashed and free in reporting and analyzing – freedom that is not enjoyed by journalists anywhere in the world or have faced such strong censorship that even facts can’t get reported.

It’s just that the language on news channels might be a little decent but when that content travels from TV to social media, there is no censorship on the language, and that’s how supporters of political parties get out of control too

PTI’s government has brought a zero tolerance policy for abusive language on social media. This is something which other political parties and their leaders always complained about but no one did anything about it. Though it is still not clear what government would do about these planned and organized smear campaigns against politicians, journalists etc. If the govt. with the help of websites like Twitter, Facebook etc is going to shut down the accounts using abusive language then how practical is this solution going to be? Because you can shut/block one account and they can make ten more.

Journalism in Pakistan needs to be regulated and journalists need to be having self-imposed regulations so that no one feels attacked by them either. Because we all must have witnessed that many journalists on our TV are paid only to bash and criticize certain party that is how smear campaigns, based on certain agenda are carried out on our electronic media.

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It’s just that the language on news channels might be a little decent but when that content travels from TV to social media, there is no censorship on the language, and that’s how supporters of political parties get out of control too. So, I feel trolling is both ways. And journalists also need to be careful so that they don’t fall prey to ‘what goes around comes around!’

Shiffa Yousafzai is a TV presenter & producer with Hum TV. She is an International Alumni Ambassador for Manchester Metropolitan University, UK, where she studied Multimedia Journalism. Earlier, she graduated with business and marketing at Air University, Islamabad. She had been vice-president Air University Cultural Society; She is a singer and has performed in cultural events. Shiffa could be followed on twitter @Shiffa_ZY and on facebook @Shiffa Z. Yousafzai. The views expressed in this article are author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space. 

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