Newspaper Articles

The hypocritical media – by George Fulton


Source: Express Tribune (

The media, more than most professions, draws charlatans to its ranks. It has always attracted enough bad apples to make industrial quantities of cider, and perhaps no more so than its proprietors. Britain’s press barons have notoriously been a rouges gallery of scoundrels. The 1930s had the Nazi-supporting Lord Rothermere owner of the Daily Mail. The 1980s saw the swindler Robert Maxwell control the Mirror Group of newspapers.

Despite this, the worst excesses of Britain’s fourth estate have been kept in check. Partially thanks to the relative independence of media organisations such as the state-owned BBC and The Guardian, but also due to the satire boom of the 60s. It was this decade in which Private Eye, Britain’s leading satirical magazine, emerged. In the intervening years the Eye has become an important safeguard against media arrogance. It’s long running Streets of Shame column often reports the hypocrisies and downright lies of the press ahead of its rival news organisation. Private Eye went after the notoriously litigious Robert Maxwell, exposing his fraudulent business practices, long before the mainstream media dared to join the fray. After losing one libel case to Maxwell, Ian Hislop, Private Eye’s editor, famously stood by the court steps and declared: “I have just written out a very fat cheque to a very fat Czech” (Maxwell was of Czechoslovakian origin). Maxwell promptly sued Hislop again for defamation.

Satirists such as Hislop have, over the years, brought greater transparency to the British media. In turn giving licence to the mainstream press to critique rival organisations. Sadly, in Pakistan, our media proprietors still operate under an antiquated Gentleman’s agreement: we won’t criticise your group’s failings, as long as you don’t mention ours.

On more than one occasion I have experienced this pernicious censorship. When I was producing and writing the news satirical quiz show “News, Views, and Confused” Aaj TV gave me free reign to satirise the entire political establishment. However, they weren’t so keen on us mocking fellow media groups. One joke, that was censored, still rankles. A Jang journalist had given an unconditional apology to the Supreme Court after a story printed under his byline turned out to be incorrect. The joke went: ‘The English translation of ‘jang’ is war. And as the saying goes: Truth is always the first casualty of war.’ The joke was cut.

More recently I singled out in a column a particular news network (Geo News) for its sensational and dehumanising coverage of the Airblue crash. The column never ran. This self-censoring is dangerous for democracy when you consider the power of news organisations. This media group has become Pakistan’s unofficial opposition, often wielding more clout than the government of the day, with its main channel setting the news agenda. Yet, we in the mainstream media only criticise and scrutinise the political class. When it comes to shining a light on our media barons and their henchmen we are mute.

It has been left to the internet and blogosphere to fill the void. Of late, blogs such as Cafe Pyala have become essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the inner workings, foibles and the consummate superciliousness of our media class. They are bringing much needed scrutiny to an insufficiently scrutinised profession. Of course, if the media covered other media by itself, there would perhaps be no need for anonymous blogs — which are free from oversight and in many ways a poor substitute for authentic journalism.

In a country where the director of news at one of the most influential Urdu news channels (Geo), the editor of a major English newspaper (Dawn), and the spokesman for the army are all related to each other, examination of the media is absolutely vital. An essential and healthy check on unfettered power. So the next time the media collectively screams ‘What about freedom of media?’ after some government clampdown we should all raise a sceptical eyebrow at their hypocrisy. It seems the Pakistan media like a free media except when it comes to commenting on itself.

ISPR, Dawn, Geo and ARY in the family

Published in The Express Tribune, September 22nd, 2010.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: September 22, 2010

Due to a proofreading oversight, an earlier version of the article had misspelt organisation. The error has been corrected.

About the author

Ahmed Iqbalabadi


Click here to post a comment
  • Mazhar Abbas [EX President Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists] was pathetic in yesterday’s CNBC’s program wherein Afzal Butt [Rawalpindi Journalist], Late. Khalid Khawaja’s son and Rasheed Rehman [Editor Daily Times] were participating. Both the journalists were doing their best to protect Hamid Mir and advising “patience” to Khawaja’s son, saying “Campaign against Hamid Mir should be stopped but what about Constant Campaign against an Elected Government and above all Politicians without any cogent reason in the same Media? At one point Rasheed Rehman said “the way we [Journalists] are violating the code of ethics, this newly acquired Press Freedom “Ghus Jaigi – Would stick up…” while Rasheed Rehman patiently listened to Mazhar and Afzal but when he started his reply Mazhar [his elder Brothers, Zafar [BBC/Dawn Group], Azhar [Director GEO and he temporarily worked in DawnNews as well and then again shuttled back to GEO] and Afzal started interrupting Rasheed Rehman – These Senior Journalists instead of being sanctimonious should stop acting like “Common Stock Brokers/Traders” who switch TV Channels more rapidly than Stock Brokers switch Partners for example Mushtaq Minhas and Nusrat Javed “doing their orgy – Bolta Pakistan” on Dunya TV. I ask do they have any self respect left in them. Jang Group/Hamid Mir’s Controversy & Twisted Logic of Dawn Group of Newspapers.

  • ‎”The Abbas brothers destroyed Dawn, which was the dream of any journalist in Pakistan,” said a perturbed employee. “Under a conspiracy, Azhar Abbas started the white elephant (Dawn News) and left it in the middle. “After looting Dawn, he (Azhar Abbas) joined the Jang Group (Geo TV) at a salary of 4.3 million monthly. But after creating differences between the government and the group, now he is going to join the BBC. The pride of the Brits is going to fall from grace like Dawn!
    “Zaffar Abbas is here to close down our newspaper,” the source said. “You know, after the failure of the criminal attack on you, Zaffar is unable to use his name as editor in the print-line of Dawn (Abbas Nasir’s name still being abused). He comes to office like a thief. The soul of Ahmed Ali Khan (late editor-in-chief) would be crying in the heavens seeing this ghost in his seat.” The employee predicted that Zaffar Abbas “will take over as group editor of The News after the total collapse of Dawn. Keep this in mind. I know the brothers of destruction very well!” Similar sentiments have been expressed by many other employees in the past as well. “Racist, sexist and sectarian bent of mind people are playing key role in Dawn’s downfall.” MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 6, 2010
    The art of looting people in misery By Habib R. Sulemani