a difference of opinion

S:     Good news for you. Your favourite Mubashar Lucman is back on air!

A:     He is? Oh good. I knew he’d beat those charges.

S:     Only he didn’t. Your star anchor apologized to the court and the court graciously

accepted.

A:     Oh. Well, this just goes on to show how free our media really is. Issuing contempt notices to anchors because they can’t digest criticism. And PEMRA! Don’t get me started on that lot.

S:     Please. Lucman wasn’t offering constructing criticism like you claim. He was defaming them, on air, over and over again. He wouldn’t have said sorry like a good little boy if he hadn’t been a bad boy in the first place. Freedom of speech doesn’t give a free pass to so-called journalists to conduct agenda-driven and defamatory programmes. It’s called abusing a right, not exercising it. I am not at all surprised to find you struggling to make that distinction.

A:     It’s interesting how you keep lecturing me on objectivity, and when it comes to someone who is not in your good books, it’s a whole different story. Why not let the people decide? If they feel he is being unfair, they’ll switch to another channel. They reserve that choice, don’t they?

S:     In theory, that works. But in reality, it’s not all that simple. Sensationalism sells. Not just here, throughout the world. You know it. I know it. Look at our electronic media, for example. There is a reason why it is the way it is. Do you think that they would behave so unprofessionally, spice up their content, and glorify terrorists and dacoits, if they were worried that people would switch to a more sober option? Quality programmes that are high on information and attempt to approach subjects with seriousness and sincerity actually end up losing viewership to people like Lucman.

A:     So, what should we do then? Pass subjective judgments, and start taking them off air one by one? Do you realise how dangerous that is?

S:     Not at all. I’m merely drawing a picture for you, and it’s ugly. I cannot advocate arbitrary censorship, but maybe, just maybe, where there is sufficient evidence of deliberate wrongdoing, some sort of accountability should take place. Otherwise, we’re done.