First Appeared on the Dawn Blog
Someone recently shared a video on my Facebook page with a comment saying ‘Unimaginable! Is it a street game?’. Cautious at first, because of rampant sharing of graphic content, I finally decided to watch the video. Although there are no gory images in the video, it is by far, one of the most disturbing footages I have seen.
The video features around a dozen children between the ages of three and 10, re-enacting a suicide bombing. Even more ironic is the fact that the video is titled “Funny khodkash video”.
It is not just a re-enactment of a suicide attack itself, but it shows a child suicide bomber meeting his family and then carrying out the attack. At the end of the footage, the children ‘play’ dead bodies splattered on the ground after the attack. This clearly suggests that these children must have watched some jihadi videos.
Let’s not even go into the details of who made the video and what they were thinking. We have come a long way from those questions; the Sialkot lynching video being one of the most gruesome examples of the level of insensitivity that is now common in our society. Just recently, a news report revealed a 17-year-old who not only plotted the murder but also took pictures of the gruesome act. These are just a few examples of heinous crimes being video-taped and uploaded online. What’s worse is that such graphic footage is often shown on mainstream media. In fact some news channels have no qualms in replaying such videos over and over again.
The need for responsible and gender-sensitive reporting has been discussed many a times. But it appears that no real action has been taken in order to moderate such content. In June last year, a group of parliamentarians took an initiative to limit the footage of dead bodies shown on various TV channels. The attempt was taken as an attack to limit the freedom of media and was never implemented. Any advancement in reinforcing media ethics requires more attention to evidence – reframing of the argument and a lot more patience when dealing with complexities.
Many would argue that it is important to show images in order to highlight the magnitude of the tragedy. It’s true to an extent that the media has a role to bring out the human side of the tragedy; images that speak volume and put faces and voices to mere figures. However, there is a need for ‘self-regulation’ while reporting such incidents. Exposure to gory images can be limited to an extent that the audiences understand the magnitude of the event or disaster, but at the same time prevents them from becoming desensitised.
Media, in all forms, is reflective of the society we live in – it is also reflective of our global perception, connecting other countries to us, and us to them. Media provides a sneak peak into the lives of people all around the world, their politics, issues and culture. It is an extremely powerful tool that is used to bring attention to stories that matter and has the capacity to mobilise people for action, good or bad. Therefore, as the audience on the receiving end, we too have a role in regularising such content.
While we criticise media organizations of capitalising on fear factor and tarnishing the country’s image, we need to come forth and show our disapproval in order to bring about a change in policy. Lynching mobs, thugs burning cars, parliamentarians abusing and throwing furniture at each other is usually the norm in our coverage.
In 2007, thousands of us marched the streets along with journalists, human rights activists and lawyers to call for an independent and free media. This was because we all realise the importance of a free and independent media. It is a dynamic tool and we must ensure that it is used to highlight, report and keep a balance of negative issues. While bringing to light positive stories that could help build hope and tolerance.
Social intervention where media fails to meet professional standards is the way forward. Right now “Funny khodkash video” is humor gone wrong, but it might not take very long for such things to become street games and activities for our children.