Journalism: Shadowed by Deep-Set Polarisation
Kamal Haq Siddiqi
Director News at Aaj TV
Challenges to journalism in Pakistan are longstanding and manifold, and will continue in 2023, as both freedom of expression and safety of journalists remain a matter of serious concern. These fault-lines are pronounced by a rise in disinformation campaigns, and further aggravated by the growing divide within our media. The biggest question, however, for next year and beyond, will be about the relevance of mainstream media, given the rise of social media.
In the past, the media has been at the forefront in the fight against censorship. Now it is largely divided on ideological, political and financial grounds. Consequently, press clubs and journalist unions are unable to find commonality on most issues, and this has made the media ineffective in demanding its space and rights. The extent of polarisation within the media community is unprecedented. The credibility of mainstream media has suffered, and media personalities, particularly current affairs anchors, are in the lead when it comes to promoting partisan agendas.
In the online realm as well, independent news media platforms are few and far between. While some of these platforms have delivered stellar investigative reporting, most are still caught up in the clickbait news model. Limited by these options, audiences are now turning more and more towards social media platforms like Twitter for news or opinion, since they find them to be more reliable. While this democratises the nature of news, it is problematic given the amount of disinformation being generated from within Pakistan, and from beyond its borders.
Looking ahead, journalism will continue to struggle in Pakistan, with the horizon looking bleak, especially vis a vis censorship. Fake news and agenda peddling will particularly be a menace as an electioneering tool, as we near the election season.