Bahria Enclave incident and the plight of a Pakistani media student

i.sultanmalik@gmail.com'Posted by

For the past few days, I have been constantly questioning my decision of opting for a bachelor’s degree—and ultimately, a career—in Mass Communication after becoming aware of the unfortunate incident that unfolded in Bahria Enclave, Islamabad, on 28th of April, and the manner in which the entire story was reported—or not reported at all.

Social media brought to light that ARY Digital was organising the family show ‘Eidi Sub Kay Liye’ at the location. Hundreds were attending the program that was scheduled to be aired at a later date. Unlike most of the family shows we see on our television screens that usually have a happy ending, this particular program was ill-fated as the set of the show collapsed leaving several among the audience severely wounded.

The ‘treacherous’ behaviour of the authorities responsible for organizing the event was also lamented by the sufferers of this tragedy as they shared the grim details of the unfolding of the horror that followed the (initial) calamity. Those present at the location reported that the management took to its feet rather than helping the victims of the accident; lights were switched off to ensure that no one secures images or videos as evidence of the terrible scenes, and the mismanagement.

Victims stated on social media that they found themselves in a conundrum: there was absolutely no help around; they had to pick themselves up, tend to their wounds and those of others lying unconsciously here and there while praying for some miracle to happen. Graphic videos and images of the horrible accident surfaced days later on social media following the tragedy, despite the organisers’ best attempts to keep the unfortunate development away from the attention of the general public.

The lack of coverage of this particular incident in mainstream media truly shocked me: I was baffled, and questioned myself then: Why am I learning all this from social media? Why wasn’t this on TV, the newspapers, or radio? Anyone having any bit of know-how about mainstream Pakistani media knows that ARY has been in a tussle with another media conglomerate since the past few years, and even this latter party exhibited criminal silence over the whole issue.

So what was it that made our country’s media—that is ever prepared to bombard the public with the most unwanted and unnecessary details of any insignificant occurring in even the remotest part of the country (or even the world, at times)—deadly silent towards this massive news story of a mishap that left many injured, and of the hostile attitude of the organizers rendered towards those left in bruises?

TV channels need advertisements to constantly function. Without the ads one gets to witness—no matter how lame, pointless, and devoid of the information they are supposed to disseminate—media organisations would be out of business. Now, if you’re a high-ranking official in any media organisation, you would most certainly understand the significance of this bond between your firm and the advertiser. You would obviously do your very best to maintain sound ties with any advertiser that has been doing business with you for last several years, resulting in a long-term association of mutual benefit. You would air their ads during the spots which will generate maximum revenue for them (and ultimately for you), you would most generously offer them full page ads of their latest project in one of the major cities to be published in your newspaper and magazine, you will play their ad during the commercial break of the shows of the most famous of RJs—in short, you would never want an end to this utmost productive partnership. Therefore, you would never think of putting this partner of yours in bad light as it would be suicidal for your organisation.

Questions regarding ethics and morality are, at times, addressed in a very subtle way in the ever-evolving, ever-changing world of media. A matter considered as a move towards maintaining business-based ties by one entity can be regarded as professional negligence by the other. And it is this very aspect of the entire issue that has left me bewildered. Human beings were suffering as a result of the flaws of other humans, and no one is talking about this. Have we crossed the line? In an attempt to secure financial benefits, have we fallen (well) short of fulfilling our professional responsibilities? Is it alright to leave the matter unaddressed, and the sufferers uncompensated? Are we really doing our job?

Being a journalist in Pakistan is certainly a bed of thorns; you are constantly intimidated by several entities, your work has to go through a tight filter of censorship, you have to survive in a highly competitive environment, and much more. Even after undergoing all this, you are likely to come across situations which will leave you puzzled; scenarios introduced by those like you, making you ponder over the way things are being dealt around you.

And the event at Bahria Enclave is one such situation for me, making me wonder: is this really my cup of tea?

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