Editor’s Note: SizingUpTheSouth.com is providing our readers contributions from international journalists from all over the globe. While many of international journalists’ issues are different than what the U.S. journalism community may be facing, you might also see some circumstances that are alarmingly similar. Read how our international counterparts in journalism work and struggle for press freedoms and survive in an uncertain media industry. Azhar Iqbal writes below about his concerns about the journalism culture in his home country of Pakistan. Iqbal is studying communications and journalism in Russia. Watch for more articles from Iqbal in the future.
By Azhar Iqbal, International Graduate Fellow of Cross Cultural Communication at Ural Federal University, Russia.
Media is a fourth pillar of the state along with the judiciary, military and parliament in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. The media plays a vital role in educating, providing information and awareness to society since the birth of Pakistan. From the traditional to new media, it has been seen as a respectable profession in Pakistan. After the launching of commercial private television channels and radio stations, Pakistan developed a vibrant and independent media. It has become a very big industry of print and electronic media and gained respect within the governmental institutions in Pakistan.
… there are so many “so-called journalists” and media professionals claim themselves as professionals.”
But, now-a-days there are so many “so-called journalists” and media professionals claiming themselves as professionals. In Pakistan, a recent election of Lahore Press Club (LPC) become a hot issue on social media to the professional journalism industry. These entry level individuals or fake journalists could be disgracing and degrading the journalistic standards in this country to get press clubs memberships to enjoy certain considerations. Many of them are the part-time employees which might be involved in activities that journalists may not condone. These unprofessional journalists do have the right to practice with agencies and online news websites, but there are worst results in this unprofessional reporting facing the journalistic community now-a-days.
Journalism culture in Pakistan
In Pakistan, media organizations do issue press and media membership and employee cards. But unfortunately, the cards are also being distributed to those who are uneducated in journalism and don’t have qualifications to practice as a professional journalist.
On the down side of these payments, their priority becomes the main incentive to produce content for the news rather than finding and reporting real, legitimately accurate and newsworthy stories.”
When does this happen? A few Pakistan television channels and newspapers hire the services of correspondents from small cities without paying any salary or they pay their reporters very small salaries. On the down side of these payments, their priority becomes the main incentive to produce content for the news rather than finding and reporting real, legitimately accurate and newsworthy stories.
Fake journalists and blackmailing culture
I have learned that some of these fake journalists have tried to blackmailing businessmen, shopkeepers, bankers and others with false reporting. For example, a fake journalist might appear in a shop and will start making video clips without showing his identity card, and if it is presented, it might be fake. Threats from these fake journalists may include threatening to broadcast claiming adulteration or bad quality food items.
One source, a graduate from GC University Faisalabad, said after he was appointed as a field reporter with a famous Urdu newspaper, he had an unusual conversation with the bureau chief when he asked about his salary as a journalist. “Which salary? Go out and earn from your journalistic (blackmailing) skills and feed us too,” said the bureau chief.
“Which salary? Go out and earn from your journalistic (blackmailing) skills and feed us too,” said the bureau chief.
The source explains that some bureau chiefs often issue press cards to immature journalists or their friends/relatives to earn resources from blackmailer journalists. Some also have gone into producing fake degree holder dispensers for doctors. And these bad practices, whether it is in television or newspapers, have been found nationwide.
Using press credentials to avoid criminal prosecution and traffic fines
Obtaining fake press credentials also has benefits if they are able to avoid criminal prosecution. And legitimate professional journalists might also be involved. Many kinds of investigations, for example, raids on shops with fake rate lists, depots of adulterated food, clinics of quacks, and tax defaulters, might be covered up because individuals might have been seen as or identified themselves as journalists.
The business cards of bureau chiefs and senior reporters could be placed on glass tables of these shops, clinics and depots. When the businessmen are facing problems of black practice, they will call upon journalists to spare their love ones.
Fake press and media cards are also used to show various police check posts their credentials while traveling on highways.”
Fake press and media cards are also used to show various police check posts their credentials while traveling on highways. Many also use their fake passes to gain favor in dismissing traffic violations with wardens. Sometimes the fake journalists’ purpose is to just enter some specific area where only legitimate journalists are allowed.
Distrust in media system
As a result of fake journalism cultures, the media is losing its credibility among audience. The real journalists are becoming unpopular to society because of the people who are fake journalists. Another disadvantage is that many graduates of media studies have become jobless and disappointed in the profession. They continue to face low salaries. Many have left to work in other fields. If this fake journalists issue is not taken into account, there will be a serious threat to the credibility and reputation of Pakistan journalism and news industry.
If this fake journalists issue is not taken into account, there will be a serious threat to the credibility and reputation of Pakistan journalism and news industry.”
Many organizations and associations of media professionals and journalists have to be conscious and aware of these issues. Government departments like Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) and All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS) might have to take some strict steps and action against those who practice fake or deceptive journalism.
Azhar Iqbal is an International Graduate Fellow of Cross Cultural Communication at Ural Federal University, Russia; Second Master Degree in Communication Studies from Institute of Communication Studies, University of the Punjab, Lahore Pakistan. Co-founder of The Educationist a Pakistan-based monthly English newspaper. Research interests are, media, communication and journalism. New media technologies in the fields of education, politics, culture and society. Also writing for Feedback Russia (A Russian Portal), Maeeshat (An Indian Megazine), Our Russia (A Russian Journal) along with The Educationist (A Pakistani Newspaper) and SizingUpTheSouth.com.