In elections time difficulties and concerns of minorities are never accentuated by mainstream media in their election-related reports mentioned by a citizen Kavita Kumari. Especially candidates who belong to minorities are not seen in mainstream media. The minorities are neglected pretty well by the mainstream media during elections. The problems of registration, name in the voting list, accessible polling stations and advocacy must be highlighted in mainstream media because they’re also the citizens and patriotic community of Pakistan.
Rafia Malik a social activist from Balochistan said, no mainstream media were not featuring the matters of common people, women, transgenders, and other marginalized communities. The issue of allotting “Election Symbol” to political parties is a more important issue than what political parties offer to common people in these elections for mainstream media. No one in mainstream media talks about women’s participation in elections except one or two current affairs shows, they give some space to the female candidates but those women candidates are part of dynastic politics. When every mainstream media outlet highlights the problems of women, minorities, and other marginalized groups, featuring the ground realities introducing polls, and discussing them then we can say that mainstream media fulfills its responsibilities.
While responding to the question regarding mainstream media’s spotlighting the hurdles and complexities faced by women in election reporting, Pakistan is a diverse state and women of every province have their issues and hurdles. Women representatives from Islamabad cannot define the obstacles, problems, and struggles of women representatives of Turbat, so mainstream media has to give space to the women of all provinces and accentuate their issues. Media has the responsibility to inform about the facts, it is a fact that 51% of the population of Pakistan were women. The media has to highlight the issues of this 51% women franchise in the country. They cast their votes according to the decision of their family’s head or they have the liberty to vote whomsoever they want to vote.
Mainstream Media only showcases the issues of the powerful elites and politicians of our society in their elections-related transmission. Instead of focusing on the issues of women, minorities, and other marginalized groups and their concerns, mainstream media is busy spotting the controversies among political parties and their disputes stated by Zahra Zaheer the Coordinator of Women Lead Alliance Balochistan (WLAB). I guess nowadays, emphasizing the complexities of the political elites and political parties is the only interest of mainstream media because it is advantageous to them.
Media is a Fourth Pillar but lost its Credibility:
Media is an important pillar of society and every society is based on the independence and unbiased approach of its media says Sana Durrani a Social Activist and ex politician of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP). Most likely our mainstream media has also lost its credibility like other sectors of our country. First, the race of breaking news negatively affects the credibility of the media. Second is taking a stance of choosing the side of elites, politicians, and other powerful people and showing biases in their transmissions, reports, and broadcasting. If we talk in the context of upcoming general elections, the media is a watchdog and it is the responsibility of the mainstream media to highlight the issues of women, minorities, and other marginalized groups that they face before elections, during elections, and after elections but unfortunately it never happens. She said the media never ask any questions from political parties regarding their policies, missions, and motives for marginalized groups of society. If we talk about just women, any political party must allocate a 5% quota for women but then there is another issue raised there.
Political parties just try to fill up the 5% quota and never allow the women candidate to compete from their area from where she belongs. For example, if any woman candidate is from the Baloch belt, then the party gives her a ticket for the general seat of the Pushtoon belt which is not in the favor of a woman candidate, and most of the time she loses. Media must raise these types of issues faced by marginalized communities. On the question regarding media-shaped narratives and perspectives of society or people through their broadcasting and transmission, she mentioned that definitely mainstream media shaped narratives and sometimes change perceptions of society because as a society we are not media literate. Repetition of the same content about the same elites, politicians, and powerful people influences our society’s mindset and they forget their problems and issues. As a woman I just support two initiatives of my previous political party PPP, one is that the party decided to expand the Benazir Income Support Program (BISP) and the other is to own the youth and provide opportunities for skilled programs for the unemployed youth and also provide them stipends. Otherwise, our party also makes some biased decisions regarding women and other marginalized groups.
Media Outlets as Business Tycoons:
Mainstream media reporting and journalism in the context of upcoming elections is not satisfactory says Balochistan’s senior journalist and Former President of Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) Shehzada Zulfiqar. Today’s media is fully controlled and another thing is that nowadays the media houses are owned by business tycoons. These business tycoons belong to different industries like medicines, food, and property. Business school of thought impacts negatively the media and makes it commercialize more than before. Our mainstream media houses are now business hubs they have no interest in public issues. If we see then we observe that every channel is taking someone’s side and being a part of their lobby. Mainstream media has to practice and support an unbiased approach, spit the facts, convey true information to its audience, and leave judgment on them.
While talking about Agenda setting practice in election reporting Shehzada said most of the mainstream media follow this practice but on the other hand few credible journalists put their efforts into highlighting the issues of minorities, women, transgender, and other marginalized groups in elections. Especially the journalist works on digital platforms they do their best and sometimes mainstream media pick an issue from the reports and news packages posted on social media. Before elections is the right time to ask questions from political parties, their candidates, and elites who compete in general elections that what policies they introduce and implement for the welfare of society. For example, the government schooling system of Balochistan is at its worst nowadays highlight this issue, do campaigns on it, and ask future political leaders what you can do for the betterment of the government education system but unfortunately, mainstream media never present these issues, and problems of society in their transmission and broadcasting. Responding to the question regarding mainstream media spotlighting Balochistan’s minorities and women’s representation in elections, he mentioned that mainstream media never provide proper space to the issues and events of Balochistan so how can we claim that they feature the struggles of women of Balochistan, issues of minorities, and problems of transgender during their election reporting.
Unfortunately, Mainstream Media Lost their Audience:
The media’s vital role is to inform and educate its audience regarding ongoing issues, events, and problems. People assume media is the fourth pillar of the state and generating and shaping perspectives does not come under the practices of media and journalism. It is very unfortunate currently in election times mainstream media taking sides of political parties, especially TV channels, and shaping some perspectives through their practices says Journalist Ghalib Nehad from WeNews.pk.
Responding to the question is mainstream media spotlighting the issues and struggles faced by women and minorities in elections, he said that mainstream media loses its audience day by day because it never highlights these important issues of public interest which also decreases their popularity. On the other hand, digital media makes content and posts the issues of women and minorities and their representation in elections frequently which makes social media more famous among people than mainstream media.
Media becomes biased when the media industry faces a financial crisis. If some powerful elite or political party supports media channels and provides funds then the media becomes compromised and never fully focused on the issues of public interest. Making content and reports only on elites and political characters impacts negatively on the audience of mainstream media in election times and it affects media credibility as well. While talking about media shaping the perspectives of the public, he mentioned that every channel has its policy and think tank experts.
Senior members of the channel, make policies according to the international survey which ensures them that what type of content gives them high ratings against their competitors. But if we talk about Dawn News, they give proper space to the issues of the general public in their current affairs program “Zarra Hatt Kay”.
Senior Journalist Zafar Baloch said there is no denying the fact that the dominant narrative in the media has always aligned with the elite perspective. To comprehend the reasons behind it, a broad, multifaceted inquiry is required. To state them abstractly, there are mainly two things:
Women’s issues, transgender issues, and issues of other marginalized groups are not as dominant in the popular narrative. The stories and transmissions do not focus on them because media houses, in their haste for maximum viewership and readership, prioritize following mainstream parties, political leaders, and elites, as they bring in the desired viewership and readership.
Corporate Media’s financial interests:
Undeniably, mainstream parties and elites have the maximum resources to align media houses with their interests. A significant amount of money is infused into election campaigns, specifically for media houses.
However, it is not the case that the issues of marginalized groups are not highlighted at all in mainstream media stories and transmissions. These issues are brought forward but to a limited extent.
Sadia Jahangir the Bureau Chief of Public News in Quetta says most of the mainstream media channels are supported by major political parties financially and non-financially. This is the one main reason that mainstream media never bring the spotlight to the problems of marginalized communities during elections and if highlight them then it is for a limited extent. Except for Geo TV, there is no other mainstream media outlet that highlights the issues of common people, women, minorities, and other marginalized groups. Every media outlet has its policy and they emphasize the problems of big cities like Lahore, Karachi, and Islamabad. The journalist of Balochistan put their efforts and signifying the issues of Balochistan’s women and other marginalized groups but the head offices of media outlets neglected the issues of Balochistan or did not properly highlight them. The mainstream media never gets more advertisement, financial support, and ratings from Balochistan that’s why sometimes the issues of big cities and political elites are highlighted more in election reporting.
In conclusion, she added that mainstream media never fulfills its responsibilities as the fourth pillar of society but if media outlets change their perspective, they will change the society. The media has its impact and if they work with honesty and loyalty for the welfare of the society in elections and highlight the issues of women and marginalized groups it will make an impact on the thought process of the society. And before they cast their votes, they will think about to whom they vote and who is the rightful candidate of their votes.