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“Time to apologize has passed”, SC tells Dr. Shahid Masood after JIT termed his allegation baseless

The clock has ticked

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News Analysis |

Dr. Shahid Masood offered his verbal apology in front of highest court of the country today, after a Joint Investigation Team, or JIT, submitted its report to the court which termed Dr. Masood’s allegations baseless. Dr. Shahid Masood, in his program, Live with Dr. Shahid Masood, aired on 24th January 2018, claimed that the apprehended rapist and murderer of Zainab Ansari was not a lone wolf, but belonged to a racket of human traffickers which is headed by a sitting minister from Punjab.

The News One Anchorperson alleged in the same program that Imran Ali, the convicted murderer in the Zainab case, has 37 bank accounts and asked Supreme Court to take a Suo motu action. Chief Justice of Pakistan, Justice Saqib Nisar summoned Dr. Shahid along with the notable journalists and anchorpersons of the media industry in Supreme Court Lahore registry on 25th January 2018. Upon the first hearing, Dr. Shahid was asked to provide evidence in front of the court which backed his allegations.

The level of journalism must not stoop of such a level where, for viewership, one could say anything he/she deems necessary to keep the people glued to the screens. This case must serve as an example of how the norms needs to be redefined in the realm of electronic media.

Instead of providing any concrete evidence, he kept on explaining the court of what dark web is and how it works. In the later part of the hearing, he simply admitted that he had no proof to substantiate his claims, however, he appealed that there should be an inquiry for he believed still believed it to be true. Supreme Court then formed a Joint Action Team to look into this matter which finally presented its report today.

After the report was presented, the council of Anchorperson said that his client is willing to accept whatever the directive of court will be. Followed by this Dr. Masood apologized twice which was not accepted by the court. It is important to mention here that during the preliminary hearing of this case, Court asked other journalists present in the court room what should be done if these claims turn out to be false.

Read more: The curse of yellow journalism in Pakistan

Hamid Mir, a senior journalist and a Geo News anchorperson, proposed that if Dr. Shahid Masood believes that he has committed a mistake he should apologize to the court. Chief Justice termed the proposal fair for both court and anchorperson but it was rejected by Dr. Masood. However, now Supreme Court has indicated that apology is not an option anymore, and directed Dr. Masood’s council to prepare a response till the next hearing and adjourned the court till next Monday.

The said anchorperson has a history of sensationalizing the baseless allegations against politicians and institutions. The existence of dark web and child pornography is a matter of fact which is widely understood throughout the world, even in Pakistan now. During the initial program in which Dr. Masood made these claims, he kept on repeating that if these allegations are proved baseless he should be hanged, something which Supreme Court reminded him today as well.

Resultantly, quality of journalism was compromised. Had there been a precedent where the anchorperson or journalists were held accountable for their words in the past, things would have been much different. But still, there is always a first time for everything.

But after the first hearing at Lahore registry, he resorted to vague explanations like how cryptocurrency is used a medium of transaction in dark web and how to access to dark web, things which did not answer the allegations he made initially. Ironically, this is not just one case. Media in the country has turned into a race of revenues and ratings. After 7 p.m., there seems to be a marathon of the political talk shows all over.

Due to this humongous magnitude of competition for a certain share of revenues and TRPs, news channels and anchorperson at times come up with content and strategies which are against the basic norms of journalism itself. The watchdog assigned by the government called Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority or PEMRA, evidently has had a hard time to curb this tradition of spreading hatred and chaos by mean of television.

Read more: A Meeting on Christmas Night Dacca, 25 Dec 1962

Not only democracy, but all the institutions and Pakistani society as a whole is in the process of transition at the moment, which has increased the responsibility of those who appear on television to educate the masses. But most of the time, it is not the correct information which is endorsed rather sensational news with little credibility is the topic of discussion. This has been happening for far too long, since the surge of private news channels over the television.

Resultantly, quality of journalism was compromised. Had there been a precedent where the anchorperson or journalists were held accountable for their words in the past, things would have been much different. But still, there is always a first time for everything.

The level of journalism must not stoop of such a level where, for viewership, one could say anything he/she deems necessary to keep the people glued to the screens. This case must serve as an example of how the norms needs to be redefined in the realm of electronic media. But this is not something which Supreme Court has to do, it falls under the jurisdiction of PEMRA, which should make sure that no one is allowed to play with the minds of ordinary people.


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