The year that pushed us further from being human
So here we are. 2012 comes to an end. It has been as eventful a year as can be. I am not sure, if it has been good or bad but it hasn’t been disappointing. It managed to carry its share of stresses and anger which is most proverbial to Pakistan.
It is difficult to read news in Pakistan and not get angry about it. You often think you are in the wrong profession. For a media organisation, bad news being in good supply should mean the business is good. But it is not. Certainly for channels competing for ratings, they may deliver such news with a certain pressure of speech and a dramatic sense of urgency; screaming with all the breath in your lungs as if it was the last war cry.
But soon it starts resembling a cockfight because it is an every day affair. And you find yourself in awe of this fight, anxiously betting in the hope that you might win a few dimes. But if you are perpetually the harbinger of bad news, you want to step back and think before you say anything. Because you have a sense of belonging to the same people you bring this news to. Reporting on the Ashura blasts, you want to make sure the information is correct when you are fully aware of the fact that your Interior Minister has suspended mobile services on the pretext of security. There might be readers out there whose loved ones may have gone to a Majlis or a procession. Why panic them unless you really know? In smaller a way, at the least you can act more responsibly than the Interior Minister.
Not that it always goes in your favour, you build a reputation for not breaking stories. To the extent that when you do break them, no one notices. But you breathe a sigh of relief when you are cautious and get it right. We are all humans. We make mistakes. But if we continue learning from these and more importantly, admit when we make one, it somehow gives us the strength to carry on in this cut throat competition. And that too in a country which is perpetually at war with itself hence, another dilemma. Everyone asks us to cover the good stories too. As if what is happening in Pakistan really isn’t happening. It is all a figment of our imagination. We try, because we, too, are desperate for good stories. I earnestly wish we could do more.
We made our share of mistakes in 2012. But a clarification is in order here. We did not entertain the demands of some of our readers of taking such and such feature, news item or blog off our pages, and there have been many. I would like to emphasise here that we are willing to publish a rebuttal to a certain article or news story giving it equal prominence. We are willing to apologise or regret an error or accept an oversight in editorial judgment but removing what has been published is not what should be done on websites. In the world of the world wide web, removing anything is more embarrassing than making the first mistake of publishing something that clearly betrayed your error of judgment. Someone might have written something and linked to it; someone might have taken screenshots and may accuse you of trying to wipe off your tracks. It is the nature of the internet which is different from print and television media. Somewhere, someone will find it.
At Dawn.com we get our fair share of blame and we routinely publish this criticism But what we do not publish are comments that are plain rude, make accusations without substantiating, promote hatred and violence against any race, religion, nation, community, gender, and in particular children. We also receive threats and tread this landmine carefully, if nothing else for the safety of our staff and contributors. I am not complaining, I am sure in our times all professionals face similar hardships. I just want to share an insider’s view so that as a reader you might be able to forgive us … sometimes.
We are perpetually short staffed given the momentum of our time, the flow of information and the interaction taking place between a reader and an author. I understand that readers don’t care about these limitations and expect us to listen to what they have to say, which is their right. We try but sometimes we fail. Not because we do not care. It’s because we are humans.
I am sure by now you must think that I am obsessed with the idea of being human while talking about 2012. You are right, I am. Earlier when I said that we do not publish anything especially against children, it was because for me this was the worst year for our children. Even though we started with tragedies like the Bhoja Air Crash, the usual conspiracy theories and whether an elected Prime Minister stood disqualified or not. We remained glued to our screens by the curious cases of our military bases becoming the favorite targets of militants as it seemed like a battle of survival.
But despite all this, it was the year when in Pakistan a lot of people forgot to be human. We burnt down the places where we could dream collectively. We silently witnessed the scene of a young man falling to his death while the crews normally went about filming it as if it was all enacted. We started targetting our children for refusing to enroll in an imaginary holy mission of Jihad. After the Malallazai Attack, a TTP statement clarified that once Hazrat Khizre had also killed a child. It was as if the Taliban were Hazrat Khizre. Ironically, in one of its verdicts the Supreme Court of Pakistan also ruled a defendant not being a Sadiq and Ameen.
Both, our level of the judgment of ourselves, and others did not seem human any more. While we could have put behind bars a child with down syndrome and that too on the fictitious charges of blasphemy, both the above statements escaped our attention. Suffice it to say, I became obsessed with being human in 2012.
I felt being human was a blessing because if you did make a mistake despite all your faculties focused on not making one, you could sit back, see through it, admit, repent and ask for forgiveness. It is better than trying to be God or angels and administering your views of justice to hapless children who could instead be saved with simple polio drops. Had Adam not taken the step to be human, would we be here?
Listen to my Urdu Blog
Musadiq Sanwal is the Editor at Dawn.com