Where Have All The Good Men Gone?
Like most of my compatriots, I am deeply saddened by the government’s persecution of the media. The shameful tragedy that was the shutting down of the entire Geo Network is earning the most vehement protests of all, and deservedly so. (I was glad to read in The News yesterday, though, that Geo is planning to launch itself from a new location very soon – jiyo, Geo!)
On a personal level though, what has contributed most greatly to my own heartbreak over the media’s situation is the fact that Aaj TV has stopped airing Live With Talat. Aaj TV, as you probably know, has been allowed to resume transmission. However, the government’s conditions for its resumption included the cancellation of two of Aaj’s leading current affairs programs: Live With Talat and Bolta Pakistan. Both programs have been off the air since Aaj’s return to the screen, thus depriving Pakistan of the broadcasting brilliance of Talat Hussain, Nusrat Javed, and Mushtaq Minhas.
This evening, Talat Hussain talked to Dawn News about the cancellation of his show and Bolta Pakistan. The government, he said, gave no choice to Aaj TV – it was either cancel the current affairs programming, or go off the air for good. Also, apparently, Aaj TV does not operate under a regular license; had it gone to PEMRA to renew its monthly license, it would not have been allowed to do so. Under these circumstances, the channel decided to bite the bullet and go on air sans current affairs.
When asked for his response to the government’s claim that the media is being clamped down upon due to ‘irresponsible journalism’, Talat remarked on the redundancy of the term in the world of journalism: “We believe all journalism is supposed to be responsible.” He also said that the issue of irresponsible journalism must be divorced from the current media crisis, citing the fact that even the BBC was blacked out. (“Is Lyce Ducet an irresponsible journalist too?”) The crackdown, he said, has been “across the board, my friend.” He stressed that what is happening to the media should be looked at clearly in the context of the emergency, the PCO, the impending elections, and the military dictator who just doesn’t want to leave his seat of power. (It was amusing how quickly the Dawn anchor cut him off as soon as he said the words ‘military dictator’.) He also outlined the government’s four given principles for ‘responsible journalism’: “One, no bashing of Musharraf; two, no expulsions of the [post-PCO] judiciary; three, no bashing of the military; and four, temperate language.” Interesting stuff, isn’t it? It’s got enlightened democracy written all over it. “It’s got nothing to do with responsible journalism,” said Talat, “only bad politics.”
Dismal as the picture still seems, it was wonderful to see Talat on television again. With his straight-as-an-arrow persona, no-nonsense attitude, and deep devotion to his job and his country, he is, without a doubt, one of the world’s great journalists, a national treasure that we cannot afford to lose.
There’s always this talk about a dearth of national heroes who can evoke a political and social conscience in our people. We look for great Pakistanis among cricketers and pop stars and actors, but we often forget the wealth of greatness we already possess in our journalists. Talat Hussain, Dr. Shahid Masood, Kashif Abbasi, Nusrat Javed, Mushtaq Minhas – these are great Pakistanis. And there are more like them. Journalists with a conscience, dedicated men and women tirelessly fulfilling their responsibility to this nation, digging up the truths we so badly need to know, asking our questions for us, getting us the answers, and above all, encouraging us to think for ourselves.
To be deprived of heroes like these is one of the most grievous injustices ever inflicted on the people of Pakistan.