Sunday will be the last issue of the News of the World,” announced James Murdoch, son of media mogul Rupert Murdoch, on Thursday. Not many people would have imagined that they would be seeing the last ever edition of a 168-year-old tabloid and Britain’s largest selling Sunday newspaper News of the World (NOTW). Former NOTW editor Andy Coulson, former NOTW royal editor Clive Goodman and an unnamed 63-year-old man were arrested in this regard but all three have been released on bail. Murdoch’s media empire is known for being ruthless and unscrupulous; it is for this reason that he is considered to be one of the world’s most influential people. Murdoch’s media empire has a strong presence in several parts of the world, be it Australia, the US, the UK and Asia. The decision to close down NOTW was Murdoch’s bid to avoid more controversy amidst the latest and the most shocking phone hacking scandal to have rocked Britain. Murdoch’s News Corp was all set to takeover the British Sky Broadcasting (BSkyB) with its £10 billion-plus bid but now the deal could be in jeopardy.
Lessons for Pakistani
What the whole NOTW controversy shows is how murky the world of journalism becomes once the media starts stretching the boundaries of ethical journalism. The obsession with prurient information is not just part of human history but has touched new heights in modern times. The concept of privacy is under threat now. The tabloid British press is an old villain in this sorry state of affairs, which has now become a monster in the name of free speech. The NOTW scandal and Cameron’s political crisis show us how an inappropriate nexus between the politicians and the media is good for neither. Politicians run the risk of being dragged down due to the worst practices of the popular media. At the same time, it is important for media people to maintain a distance from power. There are lessons here to be learn t by the Pakistani media.
Pakistan’s English press is by and large not sensationalist or sleazy. However, there are some exceptions where opinion is masqueraded as news, which blurs the distinction between the two. The Urdu press, on the other hand, is certainly more unrestrained in sensationalizing news and has a prurient interest in scandals, gossip and unsubstantiated reports. As for the electronic media, state-owned PTV has never indulged in sensationalist journalism but the new electronic media is another story altogether. There is hardly any editorial control over private TV channels’ contents and in their race for breaking news and ratings, most news channels run unverified stories and offer no apology if proved wrong. Talk shows have descended into fish markets rather than being a forum for reasoned debate.
Pakistani journalists close to the politicians,
In Pakistan, there are many journalists who are said to be either close to the politicians, security establishment and powerful institutions of the state. If our media wants to adequately fulfill its role, it has to distance itself from power and develop a sense of responsibility. Wrong practices must stop. Our readers and viewers deserve honest reporting and not yellow journalism.