I wonder why this trend of ‘I know something extremely important, but I’m not telling anything’ is all the rage among journalists and politicians these days. Both have had this and other habits in common since forever, no doubt, but their usual lying and boasting mostly revolved around trivial matters.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but I feel this new trend started after Arshad Sharif’s horrible murder in October last year. Amid all the noise, Faisal Vawda and Murad Saeed stood out for claiming to know the whole story, the latter even saying that he had the journalist’s laptop and all the information about the “hit”.
But they didn’t share the “facts”. They cried, sympathised with his mother, wives and children repeatedly on TV and in press conferences, but still kept the proof about his murder and alleged murderers hidden from the public and authorities. Surely there’s something very wrong about yearning, even fighting for justice and then becoming the only thing preventing justice from being done.
They did say that they would reveal everything “at the right time”, without explaining when that would be, of course. And it’s even stranger that in scores of interviews nobody asked them why they wouldn’t just spill the beans in public, or online if they didn’t trust the official machinery, and then let justice take its own course; or at least have a valid reason for doubting the government. Now, more than eight months later, the murder is still shrouded in mystery with the two people that claim to know everything about it continuing to guard all the facts about it with their lives.
Then came the hit on Imran Khan’s life. The ex-PM blamed the prime minister, interior minister and army’s intelligence chief with every breath, in public rallies and on local and international TV, but never bothered to present any proof.
Again, very strange.
The harbinger of the revolution knew that the “system” was bending over backwards to “remove him from the (political) scene”, but he just wanted the PM, interior minister and intel chief prosecuted and put away based only on his accusation; even though presenting proof would surely have stood the system on its head and brought about his revolution.
Later, when officially questioned about it, he simply said that somebody had told him about it. And later still, he said he didn’t show any proof because he didn’t trust the system. Surely that’s very bizarre.
Now this phenomenon, of known and not telling, is the preserve of so-called senior journalists. Najam Sethi is no longer the only journo in the country with a chirya to spice up his programs. Now all the top ones do, but with a difference. Unlike him, the information their birds and scouts fetch is just too sensitive, too important, or too something-else to be shared with the ordinary public.
Hamid Mir’s sources, for example, have told him what has “been decided” about the fate of PTI (Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf), especially chairman Imran Khan, but he could go no further than spilling that “they” might not want to settle with just disqualifying Imran and dismantling his party. That’s all. And, yes, a reminder always accompanies such revelations – that ordinary people and non-senior journalists never know what is really going on behind the scenes, only a select few do.
Haroon Rashid also knows what’s going on, especially everything that has been planned for Imran. But he admitted that he didn’t have the gumption – for want of a better synonym for what he actually lacks – to talk any more about what’s going to happen to the PTI chief or, for that matter, when elections will really be held.
Perhaps Mansoor Ali Khan, who does a series of interesting and insightful vlogs every day, is the only senior journalist these days who’s kabootar’s credibility can be tested because he duly shares whatever he finds, instead of leaving the viewer to put two and two together while boasting, as others do, about his penetration.
Time was when a journalist’s “source” helped with only one part of his main job of gathering, processing and presenting information of public interest and/or importance. Because ultimately the job was, and supposedly still is, to be able to present the information. And the better or higher up, so to speak, the source, the better the quality of the information to be processed and presented.
Now it’s just about the source, and there’s rarely anything presented except riddles. And the best senior journalists are the ones with the best riddles, because that’s supposed to show that they have the best “sources”.
Times are changing, indeed.
But that doesn’t change the fact that even when these people share tidbits of info that turn out to be true – like they often do in Faisal Vawda’s case, even though he’s not a journalist but married to an anchorperson – it only shows that they are being fed things from very sensitive quarters. And in the media that means, or at least meant in the old days, that they are simply being used to peddle a particular narrative that ultimately may or may not be adopted as the official line. So, all they do at the end of the day is add to the noise, not present clear facts, and not at all do anything about bringing out the truth.
The late great correspondent Robert Fisk used to say that journalism, unlike law, for example, cannot be taught because it’s one thing to prove something in the confines of codified laws, and quite another to hunt the truth, often in tricky and very dangerous circumstances, and reveal it to the public. That’s what’s really supposed to separate senior, or seasoned journalists from not-so-senior ones.
Journalists that have made their way to the top of the totem pole in my country remind me of a cartoon I watched as a kid in the 80s, of a character running around shouting “I know something I won’t tell” for everybody to listen. At least that “something” could be tickled out of that character in the cartoon, unlike in real life.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2023