Media: Putting issues in perspective…

This is a pakpotpourri Exclusive

By: Ali Sher Rehman 

We are all much aware of the recent Maya Khan ordeal, the appalling and shocking display of chutzpah, airing of unnerving footage, the massive reaction of the general public, media and freelance writers, the outcome of such strong reaction, the termination of Maya Khan, the Production Team, etc.  A timely public apology was made by Samaa TV which is appreciable, and that is indeed a lot more than what can be said for Ms. Khan’s apology.


Why was it so unacceptable and why did it turn out the way it did.  Was it the content of the program? Was it the values depicted in the program? What was the core of it?


An analysis in retrospect clearly indicates what the issue of the masses was, and why was it so close to every heart.  Had it been the content of the program or the conduct or values depicted, it will not be an exaggeration when it is mentioned that more than half the programs will be shut down starting from core news programs to comedy shows to dramas wherein we, as viewers watch genocide of our core values, or rather, what we like to portray our values to be.


What actually was the issue then, with the Maya Khan episode?  It was nothing but the invasion of privacy and possible repercussions of the airing of that show within the family and social circles of those who were exposed.  The core issue was real life people.  The issue was the lies and miscommunication regarding the cameras and the microphones being switched off, the exposure of individuals in mass-media without consent.  The key issue being real life people, whose privacy was invaded in the most gruesome demeanor. 


Following the airing of the program, there was an instantaneous reaction, especially in the electronic social media (Twitter/Facebook) whereby individuals opinions by writers, human rights activists, including but certainly not limited to some prominently known individuals as well.  Soon, a number of common citizens joined in and the voice became louder and louder with every passing moment, resulting in the public apology by Samaa TV and termination of the entire team of the subject program.  Following these events, there was a feeling of awe amongst all those who campaigned.  A feeling that individuals matter and their collective voice can make a difference.  Indeed a reason to rejoice.


Within days, Shamoon Abbasi, a prominent actor, producer, director and most importantly, an entertainer, became the talk of the town as one of his programs “Thori Si Bewafai” was aired exposing personal lives of people.  Soon, a similar campaign was brewing and articles were being written regarding the conduct and the content of the program, petitions were being moved, PEMRA was being contacted and as expected, it is believed that “Thori Si Bewafai” was also taken off air while a public apology appeared on Shamoon Abbasi’s Facebook page.


We need to stop and think, was the reaction to “Thori Se Bewafai” justified.  Were the parallels being drawn between Maya Khan and Shamoon Abbasi called for?  It is of utmost importance to highlight that there is a stark difference between the two.  The former being blatant and shameless act of invasion of privacy with possible repercussions on lives of individuals exposed, while the latter was only dramatization, maybe over exaggeration of events which may or may not have any relevance to real life situations.  The latter employs actors who are paid for to bring in that “masala” entertainment which we all love to hate but can’t live without. Some more programs in the same league include 
“Laakhon Ka Sach” which is currently being run and “Maachis” which was being run ironically on “Aag TV”.  Needless to mention that from the eyes of a common man, one was an anchor who is expected to take impartial views, report or discuss issues with an objective of possible amelioration, while the other is an actor whose objective is to entertain and deliver what is in demand.


We all must agree that as much as we talk negatively about programs such as mentioned earlier, it is us only who sit and watch them with interest and hence such productions are there to begin with. Yes, they are in demand.  As we, the general public, thrive on “mirch masala” and love to watch and discuss these shows.


Considering all this, was Shamoon Abbasi’s apology called for? Or was it an out-of-context overreaction? If the former is the case, then the writer would surely like to understand what steps are taken to address the content of almost all drama serials which, for some odd reason, happen to be circling around many evils including adultery, alcoholism, etc.  Why is it that a drama like “Bol Meri Machli” ends up with awards?  Needless to say that these dramas do have some semblance of real life situations/stories. Is the answer simply that these are make-belief stories where the purpose is entertainment?  If yes, then what is wrong with “Thori Si Bewafai” which also happens to be just a dramatization with semblance to real life situations while no individual reputation is at stake or no one’s privacy is invaded.


It is indeed heart-warming to see the nation get together and raise a voice collectively to mar a social evil, at the same time, since now its proven that a collective voice can make a difference, we need to be more responsible in who to raise this voice against, why, or how.  Need not get carried away. 


In the humble opinion of the writer, such drama based programs may not carry as bad a connotation as a mic being shoved in the face of a young daughter who has lost her father due to the alleged medicine crises, with questions lie “aap un ko kya kehti theen?” “Who aap se pyar kertay thay?” “Aap kaisa mehsoo ker rahi hein?”.  Or how about an 8 year old passing away as a result of a suicide attach in DHA, Karachi and an anchor actually collecting all his school mates and literally destructing them emotionally by questioning them, asking them about the deceased “was he your best friend” “What was the last thing he said to you” etc. etc.  Are these not the issues which actually have a bearing on our emotions or is it the dramatizations as is the case in the programs mentioned? 


Considering the above, Shamoon Abbasi’s apology, the channel calling the program being taken off-air, is appreciated but was is required? Or was it a resultant of our over-reaction in the heat of Maya Khan’s episode?  Shamoon has already stated much regarding his discomfort on the overall content of the program, yet, it must be considered that such programs are aired because of our demand.

Issues need to be put in the right perspective here!

 The author is a banker by profession who feels it a moral obligation to raise his voice about anything and everything in hopes that the words may matter one day… soon.  Trying to be an agent of change.

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  • Viqar Abdi  On February 2, 2012 at 4:32 pm

    A very healthy action taken by the SAMAA management.

    • Ali  On February 3, 2012 at 8:31 am

      Yes Viqar. Indeed a good decision by Samaa. However, the objective of the article was how we, as audience, need to be more responsible in our reactions.

  • Sohail Khan  On February 2, 2012 at 4:32 pm

    This is the reason why we should hold Samaa TV equally responsible, if not more.
    They are insulting our intelligence by making it sound as if it was entirely her fault
    Best wishes,
    Sohail Khan

    Sent from my iPad

  • Syed Wajahat  On February 2, 2012 at 4:33 pm

    It is always the idea of the program director and decision of the management team. All of the risk analysis and
    a plan for damage control is done prior to throwing people like Maya out in the field.
    The damage control was the message that was broad cast. The termination is a token gesture.
    No one has lost any thing. Not even a single member of the team that was in the field.

    It is all a game for profits without any regards to destruction and distortion of traditions and the culture.
    With no mercy for the people who are victimized and their families. This goes on night and day all over the
    world in the name of entertainment. While taboos fall, traditions are broken and victimized souls go stray
    with no direction or motivation.

    There should be a law, to turn off the TV at least once a week with nothing on the air except
    news broad cast by the Government broadcasting stations, like it used to be prior to privitization
    of the broadcast media. An honest gesture for the benefit of economy, but like all other means
    abused by a small group of ill intentioned people.

    It is all too sad.

    Syed W.Hussain

    • Ali  On February 3, 2012 at 9:10 am

      Wajahat, turning the TV off and just running news is a whole different debate altogether. The times you refer to were, in my opinion, not very good times as you were only shown what others decided you should see. As for the subject at hand, we really need to reach and think from within, why are such shows aired to begin with. Simply because we like to watch them. As you very rightly mentioned, it is all about profits, just imagine if a show is running and no one is watching it, will the owners be making money or will they be fetching the ratings? if not, then the show will not last for long and over time, such shows will stop being produced in the first place. It is a process and the process begins with us. We, as general public, need to take the responsibility.

      Thanks for your comments and your veiws are appreciated.

  • Ijaz Khan  On February 2, 2012 at 4:39 pm

    Missed this Shamoon’s pro?

  • Summaya  On February 2, 2012 at 4:46 pm

    We are writing to register our protest against the intrusion of privacy and exhibition of moral policing in a show called ‘Thori si bewafai’ on A-TV, Mondays at 11 pm, produced by Umer Gulzari and hosted by Shamoon Abbasi. ‘A-plus has branded itself as a ‘socially responsible entertainment channel’ but its programme ‘Thori Si Baywafi’ is anything but responsible.”
    The show uses hidden cameras to intrude into people’s personal lives and expose their alleged infidelities.
    We demand an immediate end to programming that:
    1. Intrudes into people’s personal lives
    2. Uses personal complaints against private individuals to act like moral police
    3. Uses hidden cameras to expose people’s personal lives and private activities
    This kind of programming has nothing constructive or productive to offer and is copying the worst type of television ‘reality show’. Reality shows draw huge viewerships around the world, but in a society as intolerant, divided and violent as Pakistan, it is likely to create many instances of provocation, persecution, coercion and potential grievous harm to innocent people, whether they appear in the show willingly or unwillingly.
    Such programming also creates a precedent for unacceptable and illegal violation of individual privacy. By telecasting such programs the channel is acting as a potential provoker, aider and abettor to incitement to violence and criminal bodily harm.
    As viewers and citizens, we not only protest this kind of moral policing, but also point out that this kind of programming is likely to also lead to legal action for violation of dignity of man under the Constitution – which legal action we as signatories will support, propagate and promote.

  • Amin  On February 2, 2012 at 5:12 pm

    Fantastic views, I think it is a great article and put things in perspective of how our media has gone over board in the run for ratings… Waiting to read more from you Mr. Ali Sher

  • Fa'ma  On February 3, 2012 at 6:13 am

    well written, puts things in perspective. we need more of objective views and hues before raising hell over anything and everything.

  • Ejaz Akhtar  On February 4, 2012 at 5:55 am

    its important to find out the message school going kids get from scene of killing,shows on Tv..

  • Sajid  On February 4, 2012 at 5:56 am

    Anything that is broadcast should be relevant and coincide with the prevailing culture and religious sentiments,,Culture is not enough open or modern to swallow ,,,media should not compare Pakistani culture with western or Indian culture,,,

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