Is #HimToo changing #MeToo’s victim-accuser premise?

With memes about a mom desperately trying to save her son from #MeToo movement going viral on social media, the campaign’s nemesis #HimToo is finally getting the attention its supporters wanted for so long. #MenToo and #HimToo represent a countermovement, a backlash against #MeToo popularized by Alyssa Milano exactly a year ago.

Rape allegation against Cristino Ronaldo brings the latest global case in a series of sexual assault/harassment revelations involving leading figures wordwide. As the Portuguese footballer faces a June 2009 case reopened against him, Bollywood star Nana Patekar continues to defend himself against Tanushree Dutta’s accusations of sexual misconduct. Kangana Ranaut has recently come out in support of an anonymous woman accusing Bollywood director Vikas Bahl of sexual molestation. The star has detailed incidents involving sexual misconduct by Bahl. As #MeTooIndia campaign picks up, veteran actor Alok Nath has also been accused of rape, while Rajat Kapoor has been accused of sexual harassment by three women. Locally, Meesha Shafi’s case against Ali Zafar has been dismissed. Meanwhile, Brett Kavanaugh swears in as the US Supreme Court Justice, after he was proven innocent in a case of sexual assault and misconduct by three women.

President Trump has declared it is a very scary time for young men in the US who can be falsely accused of sexual misconduct. He has also apologized to Kavanaugh for the pain and suffering the jurist and his family had suffered during court hearings.

Under hashtags like #MenToo and #HimToo, safety rules are being circulated for men, which include avoiding being alone or trusting “liberal” women. Mothers and wives are supporting this backlash in solidarity with men to save their sons and husbands whose lives can be destroyed anytime by false allegations.

Ostensibly, the positions are shifting. Men are emerging as the victims of women deceptively accusing them for their vested interests.The strongest rhetoric against Me Too campaign is premised on the timing, creating an impression of falsehood and accusers’ secondary motivations behind speaking out about something that happened years ago. From this perspective, then, Kathryn Mayorga is accusing Ronaldo for money. Dr. Ford was being used as a political pawn. Meesha Shafi used Ali Zafar to get media’s attention. Tanushree Dutta simply couldn’t think of any other way to make headlines. Ironically, all these women have been supported by females who had similar experiences with the accused men.

In her study on men’s and political magazines, Nancy Berns in her book on gender violence identifies that patriarchal resistance involves gendering the blame and degendering the problem, which is exactly what we see in the discourse against #MeToo. Women are being blamed with their personal choices being questioned. If Dutta was okay doing intimate scenes with Emran Hashmi, why does she have a problem with Patekar? Why was Mayorga partying with Ronaldo in Las Vegas, why would she accept the money if it wasn’t consensual? Dr. Ford’s candid laugh photographed in the courtroom is being juxtaposed with Kavanaugh’s moment of emotional breakdown. Because Ali Zafar was a gentleman with Maya Ali, he’s by default a gentleman with any other woman he had worked with. While the blame continues to be gendered towards females, there’s a simultaneous degendering of the problem. #MenToo are victims of sexual misconduct.

Me Too movement has completed a year. Many women have come out sharing their traumatic experiences, cases have been filed and some have been dismissed too. But every single woman who has spoken up against a popular figure has met a backlash on social media. It almost seems that women like Dr. Ford and Dutta have been assaulted twice – first by the accusers, and later by the people for speaking out about their assaulter.

 

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Suhai Aziz Talpur: Celebrated worldwide but mocked in her own country?

From CNN to Reuters, the news made rounds worldwide. Talpur is being glorified as the daughter of Pakistan, representing the face of bravery and women power. Restoring Talpur pride, her pictures are being juxtaposed alongside Faryal Talpur, who is currently embroiled in a money laundering case. Chinese media too is in awe of Suhai’s courage and beauty, some even commenting on the similarity between her and a famous Chinese actress, and proposals of marriage have poured in from across the border.

Meanwhile, a strong backlash surfaced on local news and social media, questioning Suhai’s real contribution and mocking her for what is being labelled a publicity stunt. In a rather distasteful attempt, a local artist came up with a cartoon showing Suhai flaunting a medal and basking in media attention while standing on top of two bleeding bodies of the policemen martyred during the operation. The cartoon blatantly discredits her contribution, while implying that she tried to steal the limelight otherwise deserved by her team members who lost their lives during the encounter. From the contented expression sketched on Suhai’s face, it almost seems as if she took their lives on purpose.

On the contrary, Suhai has repeatedly acknowledged the efforts of the martyred policemen. In an interview, she explained that even though it was her team’s effort, the deceased played the most crucial role in resisting the attack. She has repeatedly stated that the real credit goes to Assistant Sub Inspector Ashraf Dawood and Constable Amir Khan for keeping the terrorists engaged.ndertone, people are asking if “mohtarma” (madam) Suhai was even there during the encounter. A news report went on to raise doubts if the pistol in her hand was anything more than mere pretence. Mocking her actions, as seen in the footage from the end of the operation, the anchor suggested Suhai was simply waving the pistol and walking in and out to attract the media’s attention. The anchor further questioned if Suhai was not wearing a bullet proof jacket because she reached the consulate when the operation was almost over, and hence there was no danger requiring protection.

In a manner more akin to moral policing, the presenter claimed Suhai hadn’t even visited the families of the deceased policemen who, along with the injured guard of the consulate, are the real heroes. While the martyrs deserve their share of tribute and attention, blaming Suhai for the loss of their lives or the lack of media attention on them simply goes back to our patriarchal mindset. Would Suhai be getting mocked and criticised if she wasn’t a woman? Probably not, and here’s why.

On October 4th, the Karachi police completed a “successful” operation against Lyari’s notorious gangster Ghaffar Zikri. The encounter also resulted in the shooting of his four-year-old son who, according to the police, was used as a human shield. This is how a Pakistani news channel detailed the police encounter:

“Karachi’s police chief, Amir Ali Sheikh, who reached the site later applauded the effort.”

The news ticker continued to state,

“Killing of Zikri is a huge success: Karachi Police Chief.”

Sheikh was repeatedly shown embracing other men at the encounter scene, and answering questions from news reporters. Nobody accused him of stealing the limelight. No satirical illustrations were circulated to judge his actions or statements. What’s worse is that even though a four-year old was killed by the police in this operation, nobody questioned the police. In Suhai’s case, however, the accusations are being levelled almost as if she killed her team members herself.

Even those who haven’t blamed Suhai for the media attention she has unintentionally attracted, comparing her with the martyred policemen is no less demeaning. In all honesty, why is there a need to compare Suhai with other men in the operation as if it was a competition of genders?

Trivialising Suhai’s contribution in essence goes on to reflect our cynical mindset topped with a patriarchy too ingrained and stubborn to be tolerant of achievements irrespective of gendered identities.

 

Originally published in The Express Tribune: 

Media, too, was the Blue Area villain

Yesterday, an armed man entered Islamabad’s Red Zone with his wife and two kids. He opened fire on police and later, kept the forces occupied, demanding the overthrow of the current government and implementation of Islami Nizam (Shariah law) in Pakistan.Clearly, such behaviour cannot be a product of a sound mind. Cases of lunacy such as this are not a new phenomenon either.

Considering the triviality of such incidents, we hardly get to see them making breaking news and headlines unless of course they involve exceptions such as the Heaven’s Gate cult by Marshall Applewhite or more recently the Dark Knight Rises shooting by James Holmes – both of which led to mass suicide and killing. However, there’s never a dull moment when it comes to Pakistani news media; yesterday an armed man and police officials kept all the local news channels busy for at least six hours last night in a classic case of much ado about nothing.

In the quest of breaking news before any other channel, even the basic facts pertaining to this man were not substantiated. Despite making claims about the man’s home address, past record and fake number plates, there seemed little consensus on his very name by two anchorpersons on the same news bulletin; while one kept mentioning him as Sikandar Khan, his colleague repeatedly called him Sikandar Malik!

More names like Sikandar Hayat and Muhammad Sikandar have been floating about too leaving his real name to remain a mystery.

Many channels featured headlines stating that the man had held the entire city hostage, leaving the police helpless and the citizens horror-struck. Ostensibly, these were all misstatements. If the residents were so scared, we would not have seen people gathering around to witness the drama live.

While the reporters on scene kept mentioning how these people were interfering in letting the police do their job, little did these naïve journalists seem to realise that they were doing exactly the same with their crew. This was evident when Sikandar’s wife Kanwal, on police instructions, refused to reveal the suggested location of negotiation to the media.

The couple’s negotiation with police, however, may not have been of much interest to one of the channels as its anchorperson went overboard to make a live call to Kanwal. There’s a fine line between the jobs of police and journalists, but the concerned host seemed to have little idea about this despite his years of journalistic experience in Pakistan. In a call, that lasted more than 10 minutes, he talked to the husband and wife, convincing them to leave the kids in police’s custody, unveil their demands and come to a common ground. Later, on his own show, his actions were condemned by some other ethically responsible journalists like Talat Hussain, who made his discontent with the media coverage clear even on Twitter.

Then came the epic moment when PPP’s representative Zamarud Khan encountered the armed man, bringing the whole episode of sheer sensationalism to a close.

And we thought the show was over, but soon many channels started capitalising on even more trivial details. There was one report discussing the personal details of Zamarud’s life and his love for his children. Another one talked about the innocence of the armed man’s children and the potential trauma they could be going through in the future. Later reports focused on the physical condition of the couple admitted in PIMS hospital.

Earlier, there were reports featuring a picture of Kanwal’s wedding and videos of a place which was claimed to be Sikandar’s house in Haffizabad.

Clearly, we have no boundaries between what is personal and what isn’t.

More than informing the viewers, all this coverage reflected the incompetence of Pakistan’s news media.

Unsubstantiated assumptions about the man’s background and mental condition, trivial reports giving out details of his house, violation of individual’s privacy by showing personal pictures of the wife, overtaking the role of police while not giving it enough space to perform and later blaming them for their incompetence, pointless reports to keep the news running – all these elements only reinforced Henry Graham Greene’s belief that, “media is a word that has come to mean bad journalism.”

But with all these features of infotainment, I’m sure these channels managed to live up to their desperation of keeping more and more people glued to the screens for as long as they could.

Do you approve or disapprove of the media coverage of the Islamabad standoff?

Firsthttp://blogs.tribune.com.pk/story/18527/sikandar-wasnt-the-blue-area-villain-it-was-the-media/ Published:

Aamir Liaquat, shame on you for humiliating Taher Shah

Last night, a seven minute video clip went viral on social media. Many of you probably saw the video in question; it was the latest transmission of the Ramazan show Amaan Ramzan: Iftar Aamir Ke Saath.

For those of you who missed it, the video is a clip from a pre-Iftar show with Aamir Liaquat in which he invites Taher Shah – Pakistan’s latest sensation for good or bad reasons – as a guest.

This was not Mr Shah’s first public appearance since his video reached global fame. Earlier in June, Taher Shah gave an interview on the 4 Man Show. Despite featuring parodies of entertainment and political personalities, the show remains sensitive when interviewing real-life celebrities. 4 Man Show’s interview with Shah, while funny, did not cross the limits of respect.

Let’s not get into the debate on what Mr Shah’s music is like; the bottom line is – he’s popular. His fame, however, should not make him vulnerable to public humiliation; after all, pursuing one’s passion is not a punishable act. Unfortunately, Aamir Liaquat seems to think otherwise. The way he treated Shah on his show left me disgusted.

A man like Liaquat, whose own controversial video is still fresh in our memories from last year, has the guts to first invite a celebrity and then make fun of him based on rather personal attributes?

Here is my analysis of Liaquat’s behaviour over the seven minutes;

Soon after Shah joins Liaquat on stage, the TV show host ridicules his music and then gets personal commenting on his hair and even tugging it, making him turn around as if he was a circus creature. After asking a tasteless question of whether Taher Shah’s hair is real or fake, Liaquat proceeds to shock the audience by saying:

In baloon pe kissi din jinn ashiq ho jaye ga.

(Someday, a djin will fall in love with this hair.)

After requesting Shah to sing a few lines from his song “Eye to Eye”, Liaquat interrupts him, brings in a live snake and forces the singer to wrap it around his neck. At this point it was clear, with the harassed look on Shah’s face, that he was uncomfortable with the snake being around him, but the host, who had seemingly lost his mind, continued to badger him.

The singer’s voice turned shaky as he struggled to resume singing once the snake was set on the ground. In an overtly malicious voice, Liaquat continues to say, “gayen” (sing) repeating it at least 10 times in 13 seconds. When Shah’s discomfort with the snake being around is sensed, Liaquat says “mien saath hoon,gayen” (I’m right here, you sing); he says this while invading his guests’ personal space by wrapping his arms around his waist.

Upon Shah singing the song again, Liaquat suddenly offers his very own version of slapstick in a desperate attempt to look funny; making ‘comical’ facial expressions, looking into Shah’s eyes, the host then reaches out for a girl sitting next to him. You can clearly see how forcefully he grabs her head to make her pay attention to Shah.

As if the host alone was not enough, a cameraman soon joins the stage pushing; the cameraman comes straight into the distressed singer’s face to make him more self-conscious than he already was as Liaquat toys with Shah’s hair. All this time, the camera keeps going back and forth from the stage to the audience members, who seem to enjoy the circus act being put up for them.

I’m not a Taher Shah fan, unlike many of my friends who find him highly entertaining. However, watching his interviews, and particularly this one, has changed my opinion of him. His song may not be great, but his personality certainly is and the patience and humility he continues to show throughout those seven minutes of public humiliation is no ordinary task.

It was not just about what happened in this episode, but also about the ostensible philosophy of the show that revolves around the promotion of charity and Islamic values. Before every Sehri and Iftar, we see Liaquat giving lectures on morality and ethics Islam has taught, so my question to Liaquat would be,

“Are these preached values limited to seeking donations (read increasing the show’s ratings)?”

Charity is not the only virtue Islam has taught, respect for others has been give even great credence and respect is something that needs to be realised by Mr Liaquat and the audience members cheering the host’s reprehensible behaviour.

This should also serve as a reminder to those of us who have shared the video on social media forums for the sad purposes of humour.

Lastly, my note to Mr Liaquat is,

Dear Aamir Liaquat,

The values taught in Islam are more than just promoting charity, it also teaches us to respect our fellow human beings.

Regards,

A fellow human being 

 

 Originally published at: http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/story/18331/aamir-liaquat-shame-on-your-for-humiliating-taher-shah/

Media and the bizarreness of celebrity deaths

Since the deaths of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper in close succession in 1959, there’s been a myth, still established in Hollywood, that celebrities die in threes. In 2009, we witnessed this in the case of Michael Jackson’s death during the week Farrah Fawcett and Ed McMahon died. The rule of three is just another reminder of sheer morbidity and bizarreness surrounding the world of entertainment celebrities. 

The revelations that roll out in media reports are even more complex and longer-lasting if the death is accompanied by three conditions: 1. The celebrity dies under mysterious or unusual circumstances, invoking an element of shock, 2. The celebrity enjoyed considerable popularity for a good or bad reason, creating a sense of “knowing” the person, and 3. The celebrity was part of a world-famous entertainment project, adding a global appeal to their portfolio.

Recently, we saw two young deaths in Hollywood and Bollywood. Indian actor Jiyah Khan’s death was complemented by the first and third condition. She died mysteriously and was part of a megahit project Ghajini starring Aamir Khan. But consider this, many of us didn’t even know her name before she died. Arguably, she gained more popularity after her death compared to her limited recognition during her lifetime.

This week, US TV show Glee star Cory Monteith was found dead in a Vancouver hotel room. Monteith’s death comes with all three elements that can increase the shelf life of the news. The incident has left his name trending on Twitter, with tweets mourning his untimely death. Like any other death under unusual circumstances, Monteith’s death, too, has caught the attention of those who hardly watched Glee or ever remained a fan of him.

Now, we see the re-emergence of a mediated ritual of grief — something similar to what we witnessed at the deaths of Heath Ledger, Michael Jackson and Brittany Murphy. Remember, for instance, Princess Diana’s death which left a global impression, holding people to their television screens showing her funeral processions — the number of books featuring her pictures suddenly became popular, as more and more young people joined her fan club.

Theoretically, such a mediated ritual of grief can be backed up with the discussion in “No Sense of Time” by a contemporary media scholar Joshua Meyrowitz. He re-offers the concept of ‘para-social interaction’ — a term originally proposed by Donald Horton and Richard Wohl, for a phenomenon in which the otherwise distant audience members build an association with a celebrity as if they existed in their physical reality.  Ironically, sometimes we see such an ‘intimacy at a distance’ burgeoning after the death of a celebrity — a phenomenon that can be described as a “posthumous para-social relationship”.

By triggering a global outpouring of grief, the deaths of celebrities often have a bizarre appeal, inviting the viewers’ curiosity to find out more and feel close enough to join the mediated ritual of grief. Ostensibly, what drives this phenomenon is the uniqueness of a death that in normal circumstances would not have happened — a young death, a sudden death, an accidental death or a mysterious death.

Consider, for example, the obsession of many young people with celebrities who died before these fans were even born. John Lennon and Marilyn Monroe died long before the birth of many of their young fans today. Once again, it’s about the unusual circumstances and the mystery around their death, along with the popularity they enjoyed during their lifetime. These fans, then, can be rightly termed as ‘posthumous fans’.

Monteith’s death, too, is likely to earn him many new fans, building up a posthumous para-social relationship. Regardless of which celebrity we are talking about, what’s truly ironic about this phenomenon is the fact that these celebrities are indeed not even dead for their posthumous fans. In fact, their fan-celebrity relationship started only after the death. Unlike an in-person interaction with the celebrity, the basis of this posthumous relationship had only been the media-generated content (in the recent case, Monteith’s performances and media reports about him) that these fans experienced. And this content will remain to keep the bond established.

Lastly, even more bizarre is the fact that if the celebrity had not died, the relationship for many would not have ever been created. As a fan of Beatles’ John Lennon, how would I have even listened to his music had I not been curious to find out more about the celebrity shot dead by his own alleged fan?

Published in The Express Tribune, July 19th, 2013.

http://tribune.com.pk/story/578642/the-bizarreness-of-celebrity-deaths/#.UeugEux229B.facebook

Maria Zulfiqar Khan: Investigative journalist or media bully?

Pakistani news media never fails to remind us of the fact that it operates under no formal code of ethics. Whilst the reporters take up the role of undercover agents, once every few months we see moral policing by TV show hosts like Maya Khan and more recently Maria Zulfiqar Khan. One of the latest episodes of Maria’s show “Baat Say Baat”, featuring her raid on a Chinese-run massage centre, only left me disgusted that journalism has stooped so low. The show violated media ethics on various fronts. The host revealed identities of both she thought were innocent or involved. The name of a 14-year old girl working at the center was mentioned quite a few times before the editors of the programme decided to censor it… as if it mattered anymore. The camera kept hovering around the staff members accused of being prostitutes and whose faces were visible in various scenes of the report. When the drug inspector left the scene (which could be for any reason), the host not only revealed his full name but also came to a sweeping conclusion that he was there not as an investigator but as a client. As if this was not enough, the show went on to reveal house number and ownership details of the place rented for the centre.

The host further went to the house of the 14-year old from where she called her father asking why he sent her for dhanda, leaving no benefit of doubt that he could have actually sent her for massage services as the guy claimed. She continued to harass whoever she thought was an accomplice by shouting, accusing, threatening and using indecent language showing no control over her emotions and hence demonstrating a lack of objective reporting.

Maria Zulfiqar Khan’s desperation to increase her show’s rating only turned out to expose her lack of journalistic integrity representing an example of media bullying. But if the host is hell-bent on continuing her “investigative” journalism, here’s a suggestion: Dear Maria, stop moral policing. We have Maya Khan already. But if you have to run your self-righteous ghairat brigade, why don’t you raid on Red Light area next time? At least it would come with fewer assumptions and some proofs.

Published on Pak Tea House: http://pakteahouse.net/2013/02/06/maria-zulfiqar-khan-investigative-journalist-or-media-bully/

Pakistan’s cricket-obsessed media ignores hockey

Most Pakistanis now know about the country’s hockey team winning against India in Asian Champions Trophy, image006all thanks to the cricket team being beaten by India… yet again.

Pakistan was declared the Asian Champion after a score of 5-4 against India. The Indian team boycotted and walked out when the penalty goal was reversed and the Pakistani team showed some Gangnam Style moves before taking the final round of the ground to celebrate their victory.

I know all these details because I was a part of the crowd at Al Rayyan Stadium, Doha, where the crowd outside the stadium was just as large as those seated inside. Some were trying to catch a glimpse through the net while others were watching the match from the roof of a nearby building.

In its news bulletin on Friday, PTV News reported a wrong score of 5-2 for the hockey final. The match was not aired by any Pakistani channel. On Thursday night, while the news channels were busy predicting Pakistani cricket team’s strategies for the second T20 match on Friday, the score of the hockey match occasionally appeared as tickers or side-news, only on some channels.

The Asian Champions Trophy was a comparatively bigger tournament than the Pak-India T20 series, but if it caught any attention, it happened only after India’s victory in the last T20 match.

Let’s stop calling Pakistan a cricket-frenzy nation. The truth is that we are made to believe we are one.

The spirit of Pakistani crowd during the final hockey match was no less than that in any cricket match. People had come dressed up in green with many wearing Pakistani cricket T-shirts from the previous World Cups.

Many had their faces painted in green and white, wearing green wigs or holding props, placards and flags. However, it was a shame that the hockey enthusiasts back home were getting live updates from their friends in the audience because the Pakistani media, like always, chose to give preferential treatment to cricket.

Since all this limelight has not helped much, I think it’s about time we stopped giving our cricket team undue attention and looked at the better things happening in the Pakistani sports scene.

Published in The Express Tribune: http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/story/15375/hockey-ignored-by-pakistans-cricket-obsessed-media/

Pakistani media: Making a terrorist out of an innocent man

On November 18, in the name of soi-disant sectarian fights an Imambargah in Karachi was attacked. The incident undoubtedly deserved media attention and so it received this with live coverage by various news channels.

What struck me, however, was the way one of these channels treated the incident.

While most news channels reported that the motorbike on which the bomb was planted had an illegal number plate, one of these channels decided to be over-efficient with some “exclusive” bits of information – the name and location of the man who owned that number’s legal plate.

Despite repeated mentions that his motorbike was still parked in his house thereby making him least likely to be involved in the terrorist activity, the innocent man’s name and whereabouts continued to be a part of the breaking news! While this information was irrelevant to be a part of the news bulletin, its inclusion only worked to violate media ethics on multiple fronts.

Firstly on a very general level, it served to take the limelight away from the real issue at hand – the fact that the blast had claimed innocent lives, leaving many others injured. Turning the focus away from the problem is not necessarily done by completely ignoring the issue. Use of rhetorical devices like over-completeness and vagueness also contributes to achieve the same goal whether intentionally or unintentionally.

Secondly, despite the presence of counter-evidence, the channel strongly implied that the legal number plate’s owner could be a terrorist.

The motorbike used for the blast had to have a number plate that could be deceptive. It could be a fake copy of just about anyone’s number plate. Also, why would a terrorist use a number plate registered with their name?

Thirdly, revealing someone’s name and address details on a public platform is a gross intrusion of their private life whether it is done by a morning show host or news reporters – their can be no argument on this clause.

With no formal document followed to ensure media ethics in Pakistan, there is only little one can expect. However, it is ironic how the same channels have the audacity to criticise the incompetence of politicians, social workers or, as seen in this case, the government officials.

Published in The Express Tribune

http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/story/14839/pakistani-media-making-a-terrorist-out-of-an-innocent-man/

International Media’s Politics of Absence

After much media attention, US secretary Hilary Clinton and Pakistan’s foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar finally had a “dialogue” in London over Pak-US relations. From news reports, it seems that Ms. Clinton really had a lot to say, but what was our foreign minister doing the whole time? What is striking about all news reports surrounding this meeting is the fact that while there are a number of statements from Clinton and other US officials, we don’t hear Khar speaking. There is not even a single quote from her. It only took me a few clicks over different news reports to find out what could have turned a bilateral “dialogue” into a US monologue. The sources for all these stories were western news agencies like Reuters and AFP.

I could give these reports some benefit of doubt, assuming that Clinton probably had more substance to her statements, if only she had said anything new this time. We have been hearing about the importance of this relationship for a long time now. Then, this overemphasis on US representatives shows the power dynamics of such news reports. How it’s working in this very case is through the politics of absence. Khar is almost nowhere outside the pictures flashing across Pakistani newspapers. The only instance of her “presence” is through the statements of US officials about her.

According to British writer Roger Silverstone, a major reason that Al Jazeera is looked with dismay by western media is because of the Arab channel’s potential to reverse the very power dynamics. What makes Al Jazeera daunting is its capacity to shift the West from center to the margin by giving an Arab-perspective to the news.

The notion of transnational media as a tool to mobilize cosmopolitan civics seems more of a myth. With advanced technology, it has the power to build bridges between world’s nation states. However, what it is building are walls separating these states. In doing so, the supremacy of ethnocentric international news agencies have a critical role to play. Else, we would not have witnessed increasing conflicts in the world today.

Originally published on Pak Tea House: http://pakteahouse.net/2012/02/29/pak-us-relations-and-the-politics-of-absence/

Marie Colvin’s Journalism of Attachment

Yesterday, another journalist was killed while covering the Syrian military operation in the city of Homs. Marie Colvin’s last broadcast, aired just hours before she died, was about the painful death of a child during the Siege of Homs. When CNN correspondent Anderson Cooper voiced some general concerns about media showing gruesome images from conflict zones, Colvin replied by sharing her lifelong philosophy: communicating pain and suffering of the distanced “others” to the world in order to mobilize peace. The idea becomes even more significant in the context of international conflicts involving two or more nation states.

Though her death is making headlines across the world, only a few Pakistani news sources have reported it so far. I’m not surprised… Colvin was an American journalist working for The Sunday Times. While I’m aware of the common anti-American sentiment in Pakistan, I do believe that the various US-led military operations are not what most Americans want. Vietnam War is said to have changed the realm of conflict reporting as the journalists were provided unlimited access to the war zones during this time. Reports of these correspondents showing horrific realities of the battlefield dramatically changed the opinions of US citizens who later voted against the continuation of US operation. What triggered this change was the human cost revealed through the coverage of death and suffering during wars.

Colvin pursued what the British war reporter Martin Bell called the ‘journalism of attachment,’ which is not just about knowing but also about caring. It broadens the scope of reporting beyond a mere objective position, if there is any objective position in journalism that is. Pain is a subjective reality and communicating the scenes of suffering challenge the notions that legitimize war. It does not advocate whether a conflict is right or wrong, but communicates the fact that if it has the potential to cause bereavement to the innocent, it must stop.

Syria is not being invaded by a foreign state. What then justified Colvin’s presence in Homs till the very end was her self-proclaimed war against human suffering in conflict zones, articulating the idea that there is more to the world than ‘us’ against ‘them’. I don’t care Colvin was an American. What matters to me is the fact that we both support journalism of attachment in which humanity comes before nationality, a kind of reporting that has to be acknowledged despite the increasingly negative sentiments around media and journalism today.

Originally published in The Express Tribune

http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/story/10359/marie-colvins-journalism-of-attachment/