When it rains it pours, most aptly sums up the situation in Pakistan at the moment. A leaked video showing popular anchorpersons Mehar Bokhari and Mubashar Lucman involved in a set-up interview has sent shock waves across the media industry and the people. The leak comes while the country is embroiled in huge court cases from the Chief Justice's son to the Head of intelligence agencies, the leak brings to light important questions about integrity of journalism in Pakistan and the involvement of strategic players in influencing it.
In the video it's evident how the two anchorpersons are plotting questions during the break. The guest, Malik Riaz, a property tycoon who has filed a corruption case against the Chief Justice's son, is being consulted and prepared for questions throughout the breaks in the program. One of the anchorperson, Mubashar Lucman, is continuously seen receiving calls and texts instructing him to ask specific questions and frame the argument in a certain manner. At one point, Mr. Lucman receives a call from Prime Minister's son, who is currently being tried for a drug case, and explicitly asks him if he thinks the program is going in the right direction before handing the phone to the guest Malik Riaz.
The leaked video was first uploaded to Youtube and then picked up by mainstream media channels, hence the initial reactions were seen on social media even before the story was reported:
Social Media is #voice of People now , Electronic Media is Voice of Mafias #anchorgate #mediagate” Well said!
— khurram shamsi (@khurram_shamsi) June 16, 2012
corruption, corruption & corruption; it is time for media to analyse themselves as well as judiciary too. #mediagate — Zahid Buneray (@ZahidBuneray) June 17, 2012
Having been universally abused & vilified by almost all anchors, I'm just smiling at the circus :) #Pakistan #Anchorgate — Husain Haqqani (@husainhaqqani) June 14, 2012
#MediaGate this was definately not the first planted interview in our media history Y z it that only this off the record tape got released — Haroon Nasir (@haroon_nasir1) June 18, 2012
For those clapping on #anchorgate, pls remember what happened after 3 anchors incited violence and murder? NOTHING. Not much has changed! — Raza Rumi (@Razarumi) June 14, 2012
Mehr bokhari and mubashir lucman back to duniya channels. Is the media new God that is unaccountable? #mediagate #anchorgate #mubasharlucman — Rasikh Mashhadi (@rasikh) June 18, 2012
TV channels are playing with public sentiment & opinion and their untamed freedom is extremely damaging for #Pakistan #Media #AnchorGate — Salman Hamid (@salman_hamid) June 16, 2012
I hate these people for destroying my profession: Malik Riaz, Mehar Bokhari and Lucman http://youtu.be/9dTO76GIlaw – courtesy @WajSKhan — Gibran Peshimam (@gibranp) June 14, 2012
Big pindora Box Malik Riaz exposed in a plotted programme on dunya TV with Mubashir Luqman. And Mehar Bokhari Its all available on YouTube — Nauman Bajwa (@naumanbajwa) June 14, 2012
The blog Cafe Pyala dissected the leaked interview highlighting corruption in media in Pakistan:
So, basically we find out the following things: 1. This was a total set-up of an interview, with planted questions. 2. Malik Riaz is not only told the questions before-hand, he is fed some of the answers too and prompted by the intrepid interviewers to say things he might have forgot to mention. 3. The Prime Minister's son Abdul Qadir Gilani is in the know and involved, as are the Sharif brothers in a slightly different way. 4. There are instructions from Dunya TV management ‘not to interrupt’ Malik Riaz, even if it means going over time. Obviously, Dunya TV is more beholden to him than anyone could have guessed. 5. There actually were plenty of ego-clashes between the Bokhari and Lucman [..]
Within a few hours of the video leak, TV Channel Dunya and the the anchorpersons tried to get the video off the internet citing copyright violations. Within minutes the videos were downloaded incase they are removed. Netizens also moved a petition calling to protect ‘whistleblowers’ within the media.
Please read & sign the petition 2 protect whistleblowers. They're invaluable 2 accountability process chn.ge/LKw18V @kalsoom82 — Ayesha Tammy Haq (@tammyhaq) June 16, 2012
Important petition against dishonest journalism in #Pakistan –sign and spread the word via @beenasarwar: chn.ge/LopjDX — Saleem H. Ali (@saleem_ali) June 15, 2012
‘Anchorgate’: Criminal case lodged against Dunya TV whistleblowers tribune.com.pk/story/394490/a… -(The whistle-blowers MUST be protected!) #Pakistan — Mamur Mustapha (@mamur) June 16, 2012
But all is not hopeless in the media industry in Pakistan, shortly after the leak video was released, popular anchor Naseem Zehra resigned from the channel garnering support and respect from fellow journalists.
Well done @nasimzehra – an anchor with a conscience — Omar Waraich (@OmarWaraich) June 15, 2012
. @cpyalaNasim Zehra confirmed to me that she is in fact resigning from Dunya in light of the Lucman-Bokhari fiasco
— Ali Dayan Hasan (@AliDayan) June 15, 2012
With @NasimZehra‘s resignation, DunyaTV has lost the most credible voice they had.
— beena sarwar (@beenasarwar) June 15, 2012
@beenasarwar That's very sad. Nasim Zehra is one of the most credible journalist we have. Mehr Bukhari should resign @NasimZehra — Maham Ali (@Mahamali05) June 15, 2012
Dunya Channels management has been actively engaged in a PR campaign for damage control which has resulted in harsher criticism.
Watching #Dunya news right now is possibly the most painful thing I could do to myself. Wow–terrible PR control attempt. #Mediagate
— Sana Saeed (@SanaSaeed) June 16, 2012
So dunya news is now trying to rectify its image. All programming angled towards that agenda. This is sad journalism. # anchorgate #DunyaTV
— asadfaruqi (@asadfaruqi) June 15, 2012
I suppose if the US had not become such a police state, Fox news would spiral into a Geo or Dunya!
— Sher Ali (@sherakhan46) June 19, 2012
A legal case has also been pursued in the High Court seeking to ban the anchorpersons, but the question remains is banning the solution? For now it seems that the channel will not be firing the journalists, however netizens as well as mainstream media reporters are now raising questions triggering a debate on the credibility of the journalists in Pakistan and factors that influence unbiased reporting. Whether this debate would lead to mediapersons to put their house in order, remains to be seen.