June 11, 2021
ISLAMABAD—Dr. Firdous Ashiq Awan, Special Assistant to Chief Minister Punjab, has once again become the talk of the town after a recent viral video showed her slapping PPP MNA Qadir Mandokhel during the recording of the TV talk show.
Social media users from across the country are either defending her or speaking out in favor Mandokhel.
In such a situation, questions regarding journalistic ethics and the role of regulator PEMRA have also become part of the debate. The first question is, to what extent is it ethical to release footage of an off-the-record incident?
Since the currently viral video clip on social media did not appear in any satellite transmission, it is not fair to criticize PEMRA. We must understand that it is not the PEMRA's responsibility to keep an eye on what happened during a break in a TV set or recording of a TV show.
PEMRA can only regulate the media content that is transmitted in Pakistan via satellite or cable. Therefore, the issue of the current viral video clip does not fall under its scope.
However, the release of this clip is still a question mark. The incident did not happen at any public place but behind closed doors within the premises of a bona fide media organization—Express News. Therefore, it is also a question of journalistic ethics, integrity, and moral values because the big responsibility lies with the TV management, the anchor, and staff.
Did the participants allow filming during a break in the program Kal Tak? If we examine both guests’ body language and conversation, it seems they have no idea that the video was being recorded.
The role of anchor Javed Chaudhry, standing there helplessly, is also open to question. "I don't know how the footage came out," he said, while commenting on Dunya News. He said the video wasn't leaked from Express News, but one of the individuals who came with the two guests recorded it and shared it on social media.
Chaudhry made no effort to cool down frayed tempers. Thus, the situation does not fit any principles of journalism in the world. First, the incident and then the footage that came out anonymously are, no doubt, condemnable acts.
Although the Express News management is not accepting responsibility for the leakage, sharing the controversial video clip on the official social media accounts of the TV channel prompts more questions about the channel’s suspected involvement for the sake of program ratings.
Dr. Firdous has now served a legal notice on Mandokhail. It is expected that the PPP legislator will also respond in the same tune. However, both parties are ignoring the fact that there is a dire need for a fair and transparent investigation. It is also a matter of the TV channel’s reputation. If the channel management does not identify the culprits, politicians, analysts, and others would avoid coming to the news studio to participate in talk shows.
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