What Counts in Democracy?

What Counts in Democracy?


By Agha Iqrar Haroon

Agha Iqrar Haroon is a Development Observer. His area of work includes Central Asia and Eastern Europe region
Agha Iqrar Haroon is a Development Observer. His area of work includes Central Asia and Eastern Europe region

The governments of Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) in centre as well as in Punjab have been under strong criticism by majority of television anchors for their styles of governance.

Majority of private televisions anchors believes that PMLN is over spending on infrastructural developments by forgetting health and education sectors while PMLN believes that it does not ignore social sectors but infrastructural development is at the top of the agenda of the government.

Majority of such television anchors do not criticise only PMLN rather they attack and loudly abuse Parliament and the Democracy. The media in Pakistan has its own unique nature and abusing Parliament and Democracy has become a norm in Pakistan though both institutions ensure the Freedom of Expression and Free Media in any society.

The narrative of anti democracy media is —“since political governments are corrupt—-therefore there is no need of democracy and parliament. One can understand why electronic media promotes anti-democratic narrative if the history of inception of private television channels is read carefully.

Electronic media was born under the rule of a military dictator Gen. Musharraf who allowed private television channels by over-riding the basic rule of “cross media” and by forgetting adverse impact on journalism. Private television channels grew up under the military rule and this new kind of media was given unannounced commitment from military rulers that television channels would continue to work irrespective of political circumstances in the country and Freedom of Press would be ensured by military rulers whether there would be a democratic rule or Martial Law in Pakistan.

This unique relationship between electronic media owners and military rulers in past helped to marginalise the components of “Democracy” and “Parliament” in reference to “Press Freedom”. Consequently, Democracy was not needed for the financial survival of the media houses and terminology of “Freedom of Press” was given a new meaning and “Freedom of Press” is by word for “ensuring business to corporate media”.

Now, this corporate media is not missing any opportunity for defaming Democracy and Parliament because it has a psychological surety of its survival under any rule—including the Martial Law.

The main target of this corporate media is PMLN government and being a ruling party PMLN it is facing wrath of corporate media almost every day from 7 pm to 11 pm in political talk shows.

In media studies, we learn Propaganda techniques and psychological motivational techniques. According to majority of political scientists, propaganda techniques help to develop public opinions and media is an effective tool to influence public opinion and public mindset. However, there is another theory that warns over-use of propaganda. This theory indicates that too much propaganda usually backfires and eliminates “Sensitisation” while sensitisation is the basic component to ensure success of any propaganda. In Pakistan, this second theory has been confirmed during the last three years.

Corporate media through its all resources criticized Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and promoted it as a terrorist organisation and anti-state outfit but MQM got extra mileage in Local Bodies Elections in Sindh and managed to bag exceptional number of seats.

PMLN is the prime target of corporate media propaganda but it won majority of by-elections and eroded all political parties in recently held elections in Azad & Jammu Kashmir (AJK) . Results of AJK elections are also exceptional where elections were under the supervision of Pakistan Army and no case of rigging was reported and PMLN got 31 seats out of 41 general seats.

The PMLN landslide victory in AJK testifies that over-done propaganda by corporate media helps the target instead of finger under the trigger.

PMLN victory in AJK general elections will help to erode credibility, importance and effective role of electronic media in Pakistani society.

As a student, practitioner and teacher of media sciences, I strongly believe that time has come when state should take action against those who love to abuse Democracy and Parliament because corporate media is not a major stakeholder in democratic system therefore it has no respect and love for democracy and Parliament but State must protect and guard Democracy from those who wish to defame Democratic System on the name of Freedom of Press.

I wish to add two quotes of Russian President Vladimir Putin for a ready reference for the State of Pakistan. He says:

“Opposition can be useful. Every opposition movement is good and useful if it acts within the law… If there are people who act outside the law, then the state must use legal means to impose law in the interests of the majority”.

“History proves that all dictatorships, all authoritarian forms of government, are transient. Only democratic systems are not transient. Whatever the shortcomings, mankind has not devised anything superior.”

Agha Iqrar Haroon is a senior journalist and political analyst working in media since 1988 and teaches media studies at national universities.

The views and opinions expressed in this article/Opinion/Comment are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Dispatch News Desk (DND). Assumptions made within the analysis are not reflective of the position of Dispatch News Desk.