Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director General Major General Asif Ghafoor has sought media’s assistance in strengthening a narrative to counter hateful ideas mongered by religious extremists.
He has emphasised the need for putting forth a narrative of unity and strength, which in turn will be more effective in grounding a positive image internationally.
It is undeniable that media in Pakistan have a role to play in countering the extremist narrative, as enshrined to some extent in the National Action Plan against terrorism as well. But the parameters of the role need to be designed carefully to ensure that media outlets remain gatekeepers of information, and are not reduced to the status of public relations wings for different institutions.
The beauty of a democratic nation-state is that it has inbuilt mechanisms for peaceful resolution of social conflicts and promotion of unity and national strength based on wellbeing of all the different groups and classes that form the nation. Regular elections to legislatures, separation of powers, civil rights and liberties, and rule of a democratically formulated law are just a few yet most important of these mechanisms. Sadly, in Pakistan these mechanisms have not always been allowed to take their course, and that has led us to the situation where there is an urgent need for a counter-narrative to extremism. We hope that lessons have been learnt and this most important requirement for unity and strength is kept in mind by all institutions.
So, to be fair to their viewers and readers — and to the public in general — media have an unenviable task of providing information, albeit in a responsible and a fair manner. Even though, as DG ISPR said, Pakistan as a state has done a lot to work against terrorist outfits, it needs to be seen and understood that just for the sake of portraying an image, media cannot just celebrate efforts, in isolation from their consequences. That will be a direct breach of their obligation towards the public.
The DG ISPR’s statement has come out as a call for help from media outlets; it can indeed be looked upon as the beginning of a relationship between the government and media outlets marked by mutual trust and respect for one another’s mandates.
Daily Times, August 23, 2017