Why I've Stopped Watching Pakistani News

I probably haven't watched a Pakistani News Talk Show in about a year (maybe more). That may not be much of a revelation since the average person our age probably does not watch alot of televised Pakistani news shows. However, I watched Pakistani talk shows every night religiously for most of my teenage years (aged 13-20). This was a habit developed because of my daily dinners with my grandparents, who always used to have some talkshow on. I've watched them all. You name it. It even got to a point in my A-levels where I would watch recorded shows for 3-4 hours at a time. I even watched Dr.Shahid Masood until I realised that he was perhaps a tad bit of his rocker.

However, I slowly realized that it was not just Shahid Masood who had a problem. What problem? The part where everyday is building upto somekind of inevitable catastophic circumstance that luckily always gets delayed. I mean I heard Shahid Masood talk about how he's got "Pakki Khabbar" about when Nawaz Sharif's going in for Panama (he started saying it a week after Panama). From a man who had predicted the end of the world, this was surerly child's play. Oh, back to the problem. Sensationalism is rewarded in the media worldwide especially with the short attention spans people have today but in Pakistan, I've felt its taken up an entirely different nature. Especially, with our pathetic telecommunication authority that cannot pass policy to safe their lives (unless it has something to do with those who shall not be named). I have seen it happen where you could pick up a mic, call yourself an analyst and speak the most insane things on television and get away with it. There always needs to be an issue whether the basis of it is entirely real or not. I get that you have to cycle content to maintain viewership for money but there's a point where you're putting out material that is doing more harm than good.

I found that watching all this television had made me extremely emotional when it came to politics.Emotions that benefited no one. Emotions that would get riled up for the most inane of things. I could not stand to see the other side of the picture, I wanted to listen to anchors that talked about my perspective. Anyone who said anything else was either being paid off or was probably just jealous. It is only after my first year of univeristy education (I chose political science as a degree) that I begun to realize that political affairs are much more nuanced than they appear to be on these talk shows. There is a flip-side, a side that cannot be talked about on tv. Also, there is a reason that specific things are talked about on tv and others are not. I also realized that these 'Daily BREAKING NEWS' headlines were over-inflated. Most of them held no precedence in the long-term. They just added to my overall anxiety. I mean one should be informed about what's happening around him but too much information isn't a good thing. This is why I stopped watching all form of news-shows and began reading newspaper articles (that too sporadically). Perhaps, a few headlines here and there. Now what happens, happens. If it's important enough someone will tell me about it.

I still remember how till a month (or maybe it was more than that) constant clips of the APS 2014 attack were bombarded on every tv news viewer in Pakistan. Those images were etched onto my brain. The constant talk of threat of attack and how there could be another attack soon on schools was unnerving. The interviews of the families of the dead were very hard to watch especially when they did segment pieces on individual children. I think they covered most of them. I get the purpose. It was an important reminder of sacrifice. We needed it not happen again. However, again, in my intial years at LUMS (I am a senior now), I began to be unearthed to all kind of tragedies in Pakistan that had been severely under-reported. The dead children of the Hazaras, the starving children of the rural sindhis and the abused children of Kasur, all evaded the cameras lens. They were discussed for a time; yes but the severity of their problems were not made clear. They did not receive any justice. I cannot even begin to talk about the minorities in Pakistan. I mean "Ham sab ki awaaz hain" should mean something right? Unfortunately it does not. People in important positions in Pakistani media do not have the passion to report. They do not want to take risks. Everyone wants their paycheck. Nobody wants any trouble. I admit there may be outliers but you know of them and how they are treated.

Also, after having alot of encounters with media-related people (some channel owners and anchors), I figured out most of them had an agenda with whatever their channel was promoting. Alot of people were not interested in news. The trials and tribulations of the common man were only used for TRPS and perhaps coerce the government into giving them more ad funds. I honestly thought that Pakistani TV news was playing an educational role in my life for a long time. It probably did provide me with an awareness of the political landscape of the country but it was misrepresented. I only found out because of the priveledge of a university education. Now I can go back to the news and make sense of what's 'real' and what's not but what about everybody else?

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