The Covid-19 pandemic and the associated wave of the global economic crises have crushed the already struggling media industry throughout the world. In developing countries like Pakistan, where media is a low-paying industry, the pandemic has left young journalists staring at a bleak future. Traditionally, journalists in Pakistan have faced a prevalent crisis of unpaid salaries, causing financial uncertainty, anxiety, and stress-related deaths. A junior news reporter working in Pakistan typically earns around 20,000 PKR (115$) to 35,000 PKR (200$) per month, whereas senior journalists’ and broadcasters’ salaries range from 60,000 PKR (344$) (lowest average) to 150,000 PKR (860$) (highest average).
However, there are exceptions to this generalization. Moreover, the low salaried staff which accounts for about 70-80% of any typical media organization in Pakistan do not receive any kind of medical insurance from their organization.
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How media is transitioning in today’s world?
Media organizations in developed countries have revolutionized their ways to reach, engage, and inform their audience. The emergence of digital media has not only opened new avenues of investment for major media organizations but have provided independent journalists with the opportunity to earn money and gain valuable experience from the comfort of their home.
However, media in Pakistan is still in the transition process, where media organizations and independent journalists are adapting to the needs of the digital era of news gathering and reporting. On the one hand, social and digital media platforms have opened new doors for misinformation, disinformation, and mal-information. The spread of fake news amid the Covid-19 pandemic is a classic example of this modern problem.
The evolution of media in Pakistan can be traced back to the pre-partition years when Muhammad Ali Jinnah laid the foundation of the “Dawn” newspaper in the year 1941. However, the rise of private electronic media in Pakistan is a recent phenomenon. Interestingly, Pakistan’s private media industry revolutionized under the military dictatorship of the Pervez Musharraf regime in Pakistan. Today, there are more than 40 private satellite news channels according to the Pakistan bureau of statistics.
Furthermore, hundreds and thousands of digital and social media platforms are operating around the clock without any censorship and suppression from the government. This robust transition has ended the government’s monopoly over the priming and framing of news content, but the substandard economic models of private media organizations have made them dependent on government support and subvention. This has also allowed the government to control the editorial stances of media organizations through selective advertisements.
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Is media being used for propaganda basis only?
On the other hand, the significant impact of media influence on public opinions has allowed the media houses to align their editorial policies with different political parties to find a win-win situation. However, this storyline has influenced the objectivity, credibility, and factuality of the majority of the journalists and reporters working under such organizations. Apart from the institutional policies, journalists have faced violence and threats for exercising their basic right to freedom of expression. Similarly, the non-media background of journalists has created serious ethical and moral issues in the workplace.
The incorporation of digital technologies has paved new pathways and has made the process of delivering information more speedy, transparent, and convenient. However, the lack of resources for incorporating digital technologies and the lack of financial resources have affected both the personal and the professional lives of journalists in Pakistan. The adoption of the latest technology in Pakistan has been largely based on commercial concerns rather than attempts to improve the quality of content.
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The digital and mobile models of content distribution and consumption demand more journalistic ethics and new school multimedia technologies to enable journalists to communicate their stories with integrity and probity. In the age of digital manipulation and fabrication, young journalists of underdeveloped countries must be taught old school ethics and new knowledge so that they can act as the guardian of public interest.
Muhammad Adnan is a journalist and researcher. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.