06 February 2012

News channels closed in protest


Date: 2nd February 2012

On 1st February Mainstream news channels of Pakistan were closed in most cities of Balochistan. This was made possible by the efforts of local student’s organization efforts. They announced that they will close all such channels which have completely ignored Balochistan. Up till now after 45 hours these channels are still closed. This is first time channels have been closed in protest in Balochistan. Despite this forced black out the vibrant electronic media has showed no intentions of reconsidering their policy towards Balochistan.

Private news channels were given licenses to operate in Pakistan by Musharraf regime in 2002. Since then there has been an unprecedented growth in the size and role of news channels. Today these channels can easily change the view of viewers about anything. They can make or break any politician in few days. Musharraf was also a victim of the free media in 2007. He tried to control media by shutting down channels but all in vain. He had to give up and finally resume all closed channels. Media has brought many issues to public notice and after that government has taken action. Simply if news channels focus on an issue then it becomes very difficult if not impossible for government to ignore it and don’t change its policies towards it.



Unfortunately Balochistan has not enjoyed media coverage despite the grave crisis faced by its people. Most of the news channels have offices and coverage teams in Quetta only not in other cities of Balochistan. If there is an event they wish to cover outside Quetta then coverage team is sent from Quetta. Media often raises small social issues from different cities of Sindh and Punjab, Like Rape, theft, illegal detention etc. After being telecasted on media authorities have no choice but to take action and do justice to the affected persons. Unfortunately people of Balochistan are deprived from such generosity of Media. Apart from that if few people are dead in bigger cities of Pakistan. Media creates a furor through breaking news and live coverage and these deaths often are made subject of talk shows. Much more people are dead in Balochistan as compared to other provinces but media turns its eyes away like an ostrich from Balochistan. Only one line news item is flashed in tickers about these deaths.

Only few anchors occasionally discuss Balochistan in their shows, others completely ignore it as it doesn’t exist. Similarly the print media does not have a different policy. Most of highly circulated newspapers in Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad also don’t give it the required importance. Even the websites of all leading newspapers don’t publish their Quetta edition online. So there is no way news about Balochistan reaches main cities of Pakistan through main stream media of Pakistan. The curious citizens can only use internet to find out what’s really happening in Balochistan. News channels are driven by ratings. Balochistan with its relatively less population who have access to cable TV channels doesn’t affect the ratings of channels significantly. That’s why these channels don’t bother to give the required coverage to Balochistan.

All the people of Balochistan who follow news completely support the forced Black out of news channels in protest. They expect that after this protest electronic media might change its attitude towards them. They are optimistic that one day media will realize its wrongdoings and will give Balochistan its due airtime. So far, after two days of protest there is no good news. It seems that the cries of people of Balochistan are falling on deaf ears. Media is adamant that it can’t change its policy for certain reasons. Fellow citizens in rest of Pakistan should participate in the protest of Balochistan’s people. In this way more pressure can be built up on media and eventually they have to give up. As their advertisers will only play Ads on their channels if there are viewers. Finishing on a positive note, it can be said that one day the darkness will end and the owners of media houses will finally make a fair coverage policy for Balochistan, the forgotten province.

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