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Weapons of mass influence

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Representational image. PHOTO: AFP

Where are the adults when you need them?

This week the government came up with yet another harebrained scheme: media tribunals. The tale goes that in the Cabinet meeting there was a bit of a brouhaha when some ministers flared up against the media and demanded greater ‘checks and balances’. One reason apparently for this eruption were inflammatory accusations made against a close associate of the prime minister by one of the TV hosts.

The Special Assistant to PM, Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan, informed the nation that the proposed tribunals would hear cases related to media and hand down judgements within ninety days. In response, all major media representative bodies, as well as political parties, rejected this proposal with the contempt that it deserves.

But there is more at stake.

Cabinet eruptions are not an issue. Debating an issue is not an issue. Considering new proposals is not an issue. But making a flimsy decision on the basis of some personal issues is a huge issue. There are multiple problems with how this matter has transpired.

First, the manner in which this decision-making happened reflects an infantile approach to governance. How can the highest governance body in the country decide on such a matter with such massive consequences without a solid reason, without any solid substance, without any solid national debate and without any solid consultation with key stakeholders? It does, in fact, boggle the mind.

Second, the federal Cabinet’s flimsy approach to such a serious issue denotes a superficial understanding of the concept of media freedom in a democratic society. It is one thing to inflict informal pressures on the media leading to self-censorship but........

© The Express Tribune