Media is the backbone of a society and its democracy but our journalists, media houses and the owners will have to understand that they are not the king makers or policy makers, they are only opinion makers and in the process of opinion making media should never compromise, what some terms as the national interest.
19th April started with words of admiration by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for Pakistan Army and Chief of Army Staff Gen. Raheel Shareef. At the ceremony of thePassing-outParade of the Pakistan Military Academy, he said “Raheel Shareef is a role model for young officers because of his professionalism, patriotism, dedication and commitment to the motherland”. In the Army and media circles, the statement of Nawaz Sharif was appreciated after the controversial statements of two ministers of PML-N.
Journalists and media persons analyzed this gesture by Prime Minister as an effort to reduce the tensions between Army and Government, developed by the statements of Defence Minister Khwaja Asif and Railway Minister Khwaja Saad Rafique.
This gesture of approbation was not liked by some elements, just after few hours of this statement Hamid Mir was attacked in Karachi and after that a full-fledged campaign to slander the image of ISI and Army was started by Geo, a leading news channel of Pakistan.
Like this, 19th April ended with allegations-without-proof and a vicious campaign against ISI. Later Geotv tried to rectify their blunder by using different journalists of Geo/Jang group as their mouthpiece, and arguing that freedom of press allows them to criticize anyone because neither an individual nor an organization should be considered as holy cow in Pakistan and rest were editorial mistakes.
It is true that there is no holy cow in Pakistan and freedom of press allows journalists and analysts to criticize the problems in all systems of Pakistan but freedom of press does not mean that media can destroy the reputation (earned in decades) of an organization by putting false or unverified accusation against any of their major personality or an organization as a whole. With freedom comes great responsibility, but our budding media got fascinated with the freedom part and overlooked their responsibilities.
It is important to understand the 4GW (Fourth Generation Warfare) to understand the current scenario in Pakistan. Historically wars were fought on the battlefields; nations and states would fight each other and show their strength by slaughtering each other on the battle field. Those wars were classified in First, Second and Third Generation Wars. Fourth Generation Warfare is conflict characterized by blurring the lines between war and politics, soldier and civilian, terrorist and peace lover, friend and enemy. 4GW is evaluated as the “modern” method of warfare, in which moral victory is achieved by undermining enemy strengths, exploiting enemy weakness and by using asymmetric operations to confront the society within the state instead of the state’s military. In the eyes of the 4GW attacker, there are no civilians and no non-combatants and the one thing that the attacker will certainly not do is to stand up in an open fight.
Fourth Generation Warfare is mostly intelligence based, which make it difficult to differentiate between friend and enemy. A victory in 4GW can be gained by weakening the state and creating terror, menace, mistrust and uncertainty in the state. Objectives are gained without direct confrontation and third party is used to obtain the desired results. State is weakened to the level where it will lose control on the violence in the state. Religious, cultural and ethnic conflicts are raised. Terror is spread in the state to psychologically demoralize the nation. In this way a difficult to defeat enemy is defeated by weakening to the level where you can make your enemy to behave according to your wishes.
To accomplish the above mentioned objective some tools are required. For this purpose some groups/networks already working on field are used, but if they do not exist then a network is created to accomplish the anticipated objectives. Print Media, Electronic Media, Social Networks (Facebook, Twitter) and other modern communication networks can serve this purpose.
Although the history of 4GW is old but the Afghan War, Libyan Civil War and Syrian Civil War are few recent and most perfect examples.
Pakistan is also a victim of 4GW because of its strategic importance in the region, because of being the only Islamic atomic power of the world and because of its role in the global and regional politics. All the above mentioned symptoms of 4GW are present in Pakistan. TTP, BLA, Laskar-e-Jhangvi, suicide attacks, target killings, destroying gas pipelines, railway tracks, buildings, military installations/persons, airbases, sectarian riots and last but not the least the media, all these are the ingredients of 4GW which clearly negate all those arguments that this is not our war. This is our war and we are fighting this war since 2001.
Unfortunately, knowingly or unknowingly our media and especially Geo/Jang Group has became the instrument of this war and this was practically proven when Geotv ascended the height of hypocrisy with its last week’s campaign against ISI and its chief. Geo/Jang group role during Mumbai Attacks had previously made it contentious in public eye, wherein this group aligned with India and did some false reports on Ajmal Kassab. It is difficult to find any example in history where in time of crises or war-like situation a channel is reporting against their own institutions. Geo/Jang group turned their backs on ISI and Army at the time when our security forces needed support of Pakistani media to tackle the negative propaganda done by the Indian media.
Similarly the role of Geo in the crises of Lal Masjid, the Baluchistan Insurgency, the Swat Operation (Video of Flogging of a Girl), Mehran Base Attack, Waziristan Operations and Aman-Ki-Asha, Hamid Mir’s regular criticism of ISI/Army in Capital Talk and in his articles, promotion of Indian culture/events and attacking the ideology of Pakistan through SAFMA journalists, have periodically made them controversial in Pakistan. Different campaigns were started by social media against Geo in the last 5 years and there are dozens of pages on Facebook demanding a ban on Geo.
Our media did not learn any lesson from the civil wars in Middle East and followed the path of Indian media. As Indian media always remains busy in propaganda against our Army/ISI similarly our media made it compulsory for them to criticize each and every step of our armed forces.
Banning a single TV channel may not solve our problem if the other media channels are not obligated to shape their policies in consideration of national interest of Pakistan.
As it is one of the features of 4GW that it is hard to differentiate between friend and foe, the only thing that can award you the ranks of enemy or friend is your behavior at the time of grave importance.
How our media should behave? For this purpose PEMRA (Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority) was created, but unfortunately PEMRA has failed to regulate anything because PEMRA’s own behavior was politicized by the on-going governments. Without proper media regulatory authority media is a bull in china shop and to take this bull by horns an independent media authority is prerequisite. PEMRA cannot work independently under the Ministry of Information and Technology because under the banner of this ministry PEMRA will only behave according to the wishes of the government. It should work independently like other regulatory authorities so that it cannot be politically influenced by the government or other political parties.
ISPR and PEMRA should arrange regular workshops for the journalists and anchorpersons to inform them about the modern warfare and their responsibilities. Most of our experienced journalists are experts on politics but they are unaware of the modern warfare techniques. They still believe that wars are only fought on the battle fields.
Media is the backbone of a society and its democracy but our journalists, media houses and the owners will have to understand that they are not the king makers or policy makers, they are only opinion makers and in the process of opinion making media should never compromise, what some term as the “national interest”.