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Home > General > Pakistan: Media (un)ethics, “Malala-phobia” and Dr Hoodbhoy

Pakistan: Media (un)ethics, “Malala-phobia” and Dr Hoodbhoy

by beenasarwar, 30 October 2013

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hoodbhoymalala-yousafzaiSad to see the polarisation and vitriol that passes for journalism in Pakistan. It may be so elsewhere too, but the manipulation and attempted humiliation of Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy in the name of religion and patriotism — for his defense of Malala Yusufzai — is low by any standards. Scroll down for his account about how the TV host withheld from him the identities of the other guests, the theme of the show and in the end, turned off his audio.

Regardless of Dr Hoodbhoy’s terming the Dunya TV anchor Kamran Shahid and his guest as liars, what’s clear is that Shahid smirkingly ‘allowed’ a guest on his show to shout down and abuse Dr Hoodbhoy, clearly enjoying the show. In the end he announced (falsely) that Dr Hoodbhoy had ‘left’ the show. Not surprising. Shahid has a history of encouraging such abusive exchanges (it’s all about ratings, innit?). Here’s something about his show on Express TV last year, that was (like this one) not only unbefitting to any respectable current affairs programme, but also fanning the flames of conflict in already-burning Balochistan.

Calling Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy ‘jahil’ can only happen in Pakistan” is a good piece to get a background on recent show. It’s by Nayyar Afaq, a graduate student in Physics at Quaid-i-Azam University, where Dr. Hoodbhoy has been teaching for more than 35 years. The post quotes the actual text from Malala Yusufzai’s book that the anchor and guest misrepresented so blatantly.

malala bookThe onslaught appears to have stepped up since the publication of ‘I am Malala’, a book that Taliban in Pakistan have warned stores not to sell. Columnist Khaperai Yousafzai, writing in The Baloch Halterms the conservative propaganda against the teenage girl as the right-wing’s “Malala-phobia”. I came across her piece linked in a comment by Malik Siraj Akbar, Baloch Hal editor, in the Huffington Post, in which he writes: “The campaign in Pakistan against I Am Malala is spearheaded by Orya Maqbool Jan, a conservative columnist for an Urdu language newspaper; Ansar Abbasi, a journalist infamous for his orthodox religious views and rigid anti-American views and Syed Talat Hussain, a nationalist broadcast journalist.”

I don’t know about Talat, but the other two are certainly out there with this agenda of manipulating extracts from Malala’s book to discredit her. Watch this video clip from the show only if you are prepared to be disgusted.

Here is Dr Hoodbhoy’s version, which dispels impressions that he ‘quit’ the show or that he was informed about the other guests or topic — in fact, he was clearly kept deliberately in the dark:

“Because some facts are being widely misinterpreted, I would like to set the record straight.

“1. The anchor, Kamran Shahid, telephoned me repeatedly to invite me to his program. I was reluctant because of my demanding academic schedule but he insisted that it was very important to counter the wrong trends that we see in Pakistan and for people like me to raise their voices. I agreed to participate, not knowing that he had also invited the media extremists, Orya Maqbool Jan (OMJ) and Ansar Abbasi (AA). He had deliberately withheld those names from me, although I had asked who else would be on the show.

“2. Dunya TV sent a DSNG unit to my house in Islamabad. I could hear but not see the anchor or the other guests. During the shouting match that developed during the program – a consequence of OMJ and AA savagely attacking Malala Yusufzai and misrepresenting the contents of her book – I naturally thought that my voice was getting through to the audience. I was wrong.

“3. This program was about the book “I Am Malala” but I had not been thus informed. Else I would have had a copy in front of me to refute the inventions of AA and OMJ. Therefore I had to rely on my memory rather than have access to the exact text.

QAU students stand in solidarity with Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy. Photo: courtesy Nayyar Afaq

QAU students stand in solidarity with Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy. Photo: courtesy Nayyar Afaq

“4. The next morning, when the program had been loaded on to the internet, I was astonished to note that the audio level from my end had been turned down so low that my voice was inaudible. However AA was hurling abuses against me and these were coming through loud and clear. I also noted that AA and OMJ would occasionally appear full-screen whereas I was shown as a tiny image even when speaking. This was clear manipulation and bias at the technical level.

“5. After some time had passed, the audio was abruptly turned off from my headset. I naturally thought that the program had ended, perhaps prematurely. So I took off my headset and walked away. What else was there to do? But, on watching the televised program, I realized that they had kept the video camera on! The program was actually in the final stages and AA (full screen) had been given the full opportunity to vent his venom on me. The anchor said that I had left the program. This was a complete lie.

To conclude: I DID NOT WALK OUT. Using google, I discovered that several blogs/newspapers have reported that I walked out in defeat. These are gutter tactics. Sadly, in pursuit of ratings, Dunya TV is pandering to the extremist right wing.”

So much for media ethics.

Postscript: “It is important to emphasise that the anti-Malala opinion is greatly exaggerated because of the overprojection of some of its nastier proponents, such as Ansar Abbasi and Orya Maqbool Jan. Why are these middle-aged men so scared of a teenager asking for education? If you ask me, the Ansar Abbasis and Orya Maqbool Jans pose a greater threat to Pakistan’s future than even the Taliban. The Taliban’s butchery is physical; such people are butchering the soul of Pakistan. There is no question that Ansar Abbasi and Orya Maqbool Jan will be forgotten in good time just as Ataullah Shah Bukhari and Agha Shorish Kashmiri were forgotten, but just as the damage done to Pakistan, its national narrative and ideology by Majlis-e-Ahrar and other subversive reactionary groups has persisted and is now taken as fact, the poison the Abbasis and Jans are likely to leave behind will have long lasting consequences.” – excerpt from Patriotism, by Yasser Latif Hamdani in The Daily Times.

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