Saturday, May 22, 2010

Giving Media Its Due

I have been meaning to do this post for a while now but have simply not got round to it thanks to all the other storms in a tea cup that plague Pakistani media. There is a valid criticism of the media that it focuses for the most part on the negative aspects of matters rather than on the positive side of things, but as any journalist will tell you, it's the man biting a dog that's newsworthy, not the dog biting the man. Usually the media will also present in its defence the role of the media as a watchdog, the lack of space (in a physical sense) to accomodate all stories and also the desire not to become a Dubai-type government promo media.

Nevertheless, since I accept that the criticism has its merits, I have to also admit that we at Cafe Pyala can also be accused of the same vis a vis our stories on the media. My defence in this regard would primarily be two-fold: that the mainstream media has enough space to toot its own horn (and it does), and that we certainly don't have the human resource to cover everything. The point of Cafe Pyala is, for the most part, to provide an alternative to what the mainstream media is already providing.

However, once in a while, one should, I believe, also acknowledge the good work some of the media does. In particular, I have been thinking about this because of the coverage of the Attaabad landslide-lake crisis in Hunza. The media in general, and Geo in particular, has done what can only be termed a stellar job of keeping this issue in the limelight. And despite the odd slip-ups and early sketchy knowledge, generally the stories presented have been both informative and full of human interest.

The Attaabad Lake caused by a landslide (source: Dawn)

The News has also published today a very informative (and sobering) piece by Pakistani geologists that puts things in a historical perspective and provides a much longed for factual explanation about what exactly is going on there and what might happen. I have to say also that, after all the negative stories about the situation at various academic institutes, it's a relief to know that a Department of Excellence in Geology at Peshawar University actually has faculty members who can frame issues and communicate in a lucid manner.

In case you're interestd, they conclude that in all probability, the artificial dam will break.

"Will the dam fail catastrophically and send a sediment-laden flood wave (as high as 60 meters) downstream inundating overbank habitats and seriously damaging infrastructure of roads, bridges and other communication means? Alternatively, the dam may breach slowly over a time span ranging from a few days to a few weeks. This will, obviously be the most favourable situation. It will not only reduce the intensity of the debris-laden flood, avoiding serious inundations of overbank populace and damage to the KKH and bridges.
One would expect that experts, including geotechnical engineers and geologists, would have ready answers to these questions. The reality is that under natural environments there are so many variables involved that technical experts cannot make guaranteed predictions about the dam stability or the nature of the breach. At the most, different situation scenarios are developed. In the present case, governmental agencies have modelled flood heights and arrival time at various points in downstream sections of the Hunza, Gilgit and Indus rivers, assuming different durations of breach. In the case of catastrophic failure, their models predict a flood level of 36m that reduces to 7m in case of a breach spread over 24 hours."

I have to say I also appreciate some of the regular contributors to the oped pages of the newspapers who attempt to bring in some level of rational debate to a country seemingly bereft of it. And, since this is something that has never had the occasion to be touched upon in other posts, I think the Express Tribuine's daily map of crime in its city pages is also an excellent invention.

Kamran Khan: taking a rational line

Last night, I thought in warm terms of Geo again - unlikely as it may sound - when I saw the segment on the Facebook ban on Aaj Kamran Khan Ke Saath. After a long while, it seemed Geo was not pandering to the vociferous right-wing of this country and actually questioning their logic in a reasoned manner. Because of the Youtube blockage, I'm not going to put the clip up here but you can view it here (it's the second story which begins after the commercial break, round 7:10).

Unfortunately, it seems to have enraged the cretins and they are vociferously protesting outside the Geo offices about this very segment even as I write this. You can view the segment and decide for yourself why exactly the cretins are protesting it.


drowning man said...

good to see the credit being given where due.

Whereas Atabad Lake coverage is wonderful, the real surprise is the stance taken by Geo management on the entire Facebook fiasco. Considering the kind of rhetoric they spew and having people like aamir liaqauat in their ranks, i am very pleasantly surprised to see that for once, Kamran Khan decided to be somewhat rational and sane in his analsysis.

Muntaha said...

i hope this is not just another stunt by Geo. After all if an angry mob storms into Geo this time, or PEMRA asks TV channels to be more careful on reporting such issues, who will win?

Anonymous said...

i refuse to give kamran khan credit for anything :P

Muhammad Shahid said...

You guys have to check out Aamir Liaquat's greatest piece ever. It trumps the green sole one by a margin:-

Anonymous said...

Perhaps, that bigot Mir Shakeel is on leave. He is a closet Mullah and orchestrates all religious and anti-progressive coverage in his group.

Sakib Ahmad said...

I am glad you have made some amends for your earlier error of judgment when you allowed yourself to be manipulated by the unholy alliance between the ISI and the gang of convicts, criminals and fraudsters that passes for the government of Pakistan. The shameless persecution of Hamid Mir by yourself and others was a low point in the "alternative journalism" practised by wannabe journalists.

Hamid Mir is among a small group of courageous journalists who are highlighting the thuggery routinely practised by the ISI against Pakistan's citizens. The kind of criticism he has subjected ISI to can be gleaned from the following link to one of Hamid Mir's articles in the context of the mysterious disappearance of thousands of Pakistanis:

XYZ said...

@Sakib Ahmad: You've got to be joking my friend. Although the earlier post you are referring to was written by my colleague CPM, I absolutely agree with what was written. You and Hamid Mir (or are you one and the same given the lengths you have gone to on this blog and others to attack those criticising him?) may be trying to obfuscate matters by making up fanciful conspiracy theories, there is still a basic issue that Hamid Mir must answer. Nobody is going to believe your and Mir's protestations until it is proved that the tape is fabricated.

And for your information, unlike wannabes like you, we are actually real journalists.

Anonymous said...

@sakib: the low point of journalism was when hamid mir became one. nufzed. :P

Faisal said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Sakib Ahmad said...

@XYZ: You are a genius, man! How the hell did you work out that I am none other than Hamid Mir? I take my hat off to you, Einstein! Really, you need to snatch that ridiculous XYZ mask away from your glorious visage and let the light shine upon the world!

Hang on a minute, though. Did you get help from ISI in tracing me to my hideout? Just as these body snatchers have put together a tape condemning Hamid Mir – but not daring to file charges in a court of law – they may have been taping my cell phone in this secret location. Well, well, if you are hand in glove with the ISI then that rather takes the glory away, Mr Einstein.

So, you call yourself a ‘real journalist’? God help Pakistan if such prejudiced people are to burrow their way into journalism. Do you not understand a basic rule of established judicial practice: if you heap accusations on someone then the onus is on you to prove them? You are holding the smoking gun in your hand, right? My dear man, just take it to a Pakistani court. What are you afraid of?

Right now you are in cahoots with the unholy alliance of the body snatchers and the gang of PPP convicts, criminals and fraudsters, but beware! These are fickle friends and they may turn against you any time. Don’t worry, though. You will always have an honourable way out: the Zehreela Pyala in your cafe.

[and your PPP friends at the steaming Tea House can follow your example when the body snatchers knock down the door of the Tea House]

Anonymous said...

wow sakib. u'r even more demented than ur beloved hamid.

but in one respect you're right actually. it's shameful that neither the state nor much of the media has focused attention on the episode. says something about the effectiveness of mir's blackmailing appropriation of the media-persecution argument, and the spinelessness of the journalist fraternity in condemning one of their own. what is being forgotten however is that this is not about journalism, it's about a journalist. a criminal one.

Anonymous said...

While I don't agree with Sakib's assertions about Hamid Mir -- he is totally off the mark -- I have to say that XYZ's reply in which he has equated Sakib with XYZ is, to say the least, childish.

Now this is an anonymous posting. So here is a disclaimer: I am neither Hamid Mir nor Sakib nor XYZ.

Anonymous said...

anon-who-is-not-anyone: you are, however, a bit dyslexic? "XYZ's reply in which he has equated Sakib with XYZ..."