Japan Tsunami 2011: Where’s Pakistani media?
This article; originally titled Is Daddy OK? was contributed by Noor Fatima Iftikhar.
The blaring of news-headlines was audible even before I entered home after attending my morning classes. Dashing inside, i saw images and videos portraying one of the biggest calamities to hit the earth. However, for me, it wasn’t as easy to digest and forget about than the major portion of the Pakistani population. It took a great while for the news to sink in.
Earthquake in Japan.
Magnitude of 8.9 on the Richter scale.
Waves wash away the infrastructure of Sendai.
Tsunami warning issued to other nations in the Pacific basin.
Is my father safe?
The airing of cosmetic ads were enough to shake me out of my reverie. Thoroughly repulsed, I grabbed the remote and switched onto BBC. Here was the destruction of one of the most peaceful nations, one of our most cordial allies and furthermore, the lives of 10,000 Pakistanis jeopardized in a country bombarded with calamity – and our news outlets cannot get over their infatuation with Katrina Kaif. Reassuring.
As the damages gained momentum, it immediately became clear that this was nothing to shrug off. One particular chilling video portrayed an aerial view of how the water was creeping along the countryside of Japan, taking with it vehicles, buildings, tankers and airplanes as the deathly waters of the tsunami conquered the countryside. Like leaves being carried away in a murky stream.
Where was our media at that time? Was it trying to show the plight of the families with Pakistani relatives in Japan? Was it, in ANY WAY, carrying out a “search” program into finding and seeking out one’s relatives? Why did our news channels not even have the audacity to report a serious jam in communication circles in the earthquake hit regions? Or what was the latest on the transport systems including international airports?
I have the answers to all that. Our media was settling political scores viewing the antics of the politicians at the Punjab Assembly. It was fueling the recent “Lotacracy” debate. It was showing two-headed turtles in some nameless zoo in Slovakia. It was showing discussions on the England versus Bangladesh match. It was giving decent airtime to everything but tracking down Pakistanis in a country from where some families were desperate for news.
Today, a day later, you may ask what exactly I am harping about since Pakistani channels ARE discussing Japan. Wrong. They STILL aren’t discussing Japan, they’re discussing the problems with the Japanese nuclear reactor. It is pretty obvious anything relating to atomic energy carries a “limited edition” price tag, today our news channels are milking all news related to the coolant failure at Fukushima power plant, calling up experts, highlighting US involvement, shedding light on the once-forgotten Chernobyl incident at a time where history may (God forbid) repeat itself.
Still nothing on contacting the 10,000 Pakistanis stuck in Japan. Well, apart from a statement from the “Pakistan Embassy” in Japan, claiming all immigrants were “alright.” God knows how much true that is.
At the end of the day, it is becoming increasingly clear that the media, who prides itself on being regarded as the fourth pillar of the state – may in fact be misleading the population. I, for one, am a victim of the deceptive term “fourth pillar of the state”. The executive, legislature and judiciary work FOR the people of the country, and for media to be regarded as the 4th pillar, it needs to utilize such situations and rise up to the occasion and cater to the affected. Google had launched its “People Finder program.” Regular updates were being given; contact between victims of the quake and tsunami was being re-established with their friends and family. Not just for the Japanese, but for everyone worldwide. Free of cost. Why couldn’t we come up with something worth even 2 percent of Google’s efforts?
A lesson worth learning for the Pakistani media: we all understand how you feel if your reporter is beaten up or if – in dire cases – the reporter or cameraman dies in terrible circumstances. We feel the pain, because every loss is a loss and should be accounted for. At least apply that to the families of the expats abroad when such disaster strikes. You can pride yourself later, at least aid all sections of the demographic along the way.