Media (un)ethics, “Malala-phobia” and Dr Hoodbhoy

hoodbhoymalala-yousafzaiSad to see the polarisation and vitriol that passes for journalism in Pakistan. It may be so elsewhere too, but the manipulation and attempted humiliation of Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy in the name of religion and patriotism — for his defense of Malala Yusufzai — is low by any standards. Scroll down for his account about how the TV host withheld from him the identities of the other guests, the theme of the show and in the end, turned off his audio.

Regardless of Dr Hoodbhoy’s terming the Dunya TV anchor Kamran Shahid and his guest as liars, what’s clear is that Shahid smirkingly ‘allowed’ a guest on his show to shout down and abuse Dr Hoodbhoy, clearly enjoying the situation. In the end he announced (falsely) that Dr Hoodbhoy had ‘left’ the show. Not surprising. Shahid has a history of   untruths as well as encouraging such abusive exchanges (it’s all about ratings, innit?). Here’s something about his show on Express TV last year, that was (like this one) not only unbefitting to any respectable current affairs programme, but also fanning the flames of conflict in already-burning Balochistan.

Calling Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy ‘jahil’ can only happen in Pakistan” is a good piece to get a background on recent show. It’s by Nayyar Afaq, a graduate student in Physics at Quaid-i-Azam University, where Dr. Hoodbhoy has been teaching for more than 35 years. The post quotes the actual text from Malala Yusufzai’s book ‘I am Malala’ that the anchor and guest misquoted and misrepresented so blatantly.

malala bookThe onslaught against Malala and what she represents appears to have stepped up since the publication of her book, that Taliban in Pakistan have warned stores not to sell. Columnist Khaperai Yousafzai, writing in The Baloch Halterms the propaganda against her as the right-wing’s “Malala-phobia”. I came across this term linked in a comment by Malik Siraj Akbar, Baloch Hal editor, in the Huffington Post, in which he  identifies the leaders of the “campaign in Pakistan against I Am Malala” as “Orya Maqbool Jan, a conservative columnist for an Urdu language newspaper; Ansar Abbasi, a journalist infamous for his orthodox religious views and rigid anti-American views and Syed Talat Hussain, a nationalist broadcast journalist.”

There is certainly a coterie out there with this agenda of manipulating extracts from Malala’s book to discredit her and all she stands for.  Here’s the link to a run-down of the ‘allegations’ against her, her father, and ‘the West’ that is  ‘exploiting’ her, each countered by an acerbic response. And a video clip from the Kamran Shahid show – watch only if you are prepared to be disgusted.

Do read Dr Hoodbhoy’s version, which dispels impressions that he ‘quit’ the show or that he was informed about the other guests or topic — in fact, he was clearly kept deliberately in the dark:

“Because some facts are being widely misinterpreted, I would like to set the record straight.

“1. The anchor, Kamran Shahid, telephoned me repeatedly to invite me to his program. I was reluctant because of my demanding academic schedule but he insisted that it was very important to counter the wrong trends that we see in Pakistan and for people like me to raise their voices. I agreed to participate, not knowing that he had also invited the media extremists, Orya Maqbool Jan (OMJ) and Ansar Abbasi (AA). He had deliberately withheld those names from me, although I had asked who else would be on the show.

“2. Dunya TV sent a DSNG unit to my house in Islamabad. I could hear but not see the anchor or the other guests. During the shouting match that developed during the program – a consequence of OMJ and AA savagely attacking Malala Yusufzai and misrepresenting the contents of her book – I naturally thought that my voice was getting through to the audience. I was wrong.

“3. This program was about the book “I Am Malala” but I had not been thus informed. Else I would have had a copy in front of me to refute the inventions of AA and OMJ. Therefore I had to rely on my memory rather than have access to the exact text.

QAU students stand in solidarity with Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy. Photo: courtesy Nayyar Afaq

QAU students stand in solidarity with Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy. Photo: courtesy Nayyar Afaq

“4. The next morning, when the program had been loaded on to the internet, I was astonished to note that the audio level from my end had been turned down so low that my voice was inaudible. However AA was hurling abuses against me and these were coming through loud and clear. I also noted that AA and OMJ would occasionally appear full-screen whereas I was shown as a tiny image even when speaking. This was clear manipulation and bias at the technical level.

“5. After some time had passed, the audio was abruptly turned off from my headset. I naturally thought that the program had ended, perhaps prematurely. So I took off my headset and walked away. What else was there to do? But, on watching the televised program, I realized that they had kept the video camera on! The program was actually in the final stages and AA (full screen) had been given the full opportunity to vent his venom on me. The anchor said that I had left the program. This was a complete lie.

“To conclude: I DID NOT WALK OUT. Using google, I discovered that several blogs/newspapers have reported that I walked out in defeat. These are gutter tactics. Sadly, in pursuit of ratings, Dunya TV is pandering to the extremist right wing.”

So much for media ethics.

Postscript: “It is important to emphasise that the anti-Malala opinion is greatly exaggerated because of the overprojection of some of its nastier proponents, such as Ansar Abbasi and Orya Maqbool Jan. Why are these middle-aged men so scared of a teenager asking for education? If you ask me, the Ansar Abbasis and Orya Maqbool Jans pose a greater threat to Pakistan’s future than even the Taliban. The Taliban’s butchery is physical; such people are butchering the soul of Pakistan. There is no question that Ansar Abbasi and Orya Maqbool Jan will be forgotten in good time just as Ataullah Shah Bukhari and Agha Shorish Kashmiri were forgotten, but just as the damage done to Pakistan, its national narrative and ideology by Majlis-e-Ahrar and other subversive reactionary groups has persisted and is now taken as fact, the poison the Abbasis and Jans are likely to leave behind will have long lasting consequences.” – excerpt from Patriotism, by Yasser Latif Hamdani in The Daily Times.

6 Responses

  1. Reblogged this on TOAL and commented:
    The shameless perverts of the Pakistani media, excellent analysis by Beena Sarwar


  2. All who care about reason and sanity to prevail must stand with Professor Hoodbhoy and condemn such Taliban mind set spreading through media. People must active campaign to boycott all such anchors and their channels who encourage such weirdo. Use your ‘remote’ and shut them out, kick them out of your living rooms. We have got to think for ourselves and don’t allow some ancient fundos to preach their brand of right or wrong for us. Reject them now, before they help the demon Talibans convert Pakistan into some barbarian society.


  3. the way Malala has been inflated out of all proportionality and equity is pathetic and disgraceful. it tells the world that we have QAHHT- AL- RAJJAL (Famine of good learned people).
    However, concerning Dr Hoodbhoy maltreatment on that Show, I endorse and value your observations. I watched that show, and half way thru I switched tv off.
    Bashir Camel Driver, that Muzaffargarh laidy or SharrrrREEFS and Pull-AO-zardaRE as symbols of Pakistan is an immense tragedy. We must wash our moneylaunder(ing)y a bit more forcefully and not play sitting ducks.


  4. Urea Naa’maqbool & Sangsaar Abbasi bear these learnt behaviour in both thier nature & nurture. Talat hussain, Oriya, haroon rasheed, ansar abbasi and many others have lost their reliability & charachter so much that people can’t rely them anymore.


  5. I saw the comments of Orya Maqbool Jan and Ansar Abbasi against Pervez Hoodbhoy as offensive but believes strongly in freedom of speech


  6. Though the attitude of OMJ & AA towards Dr. Hoodboy was also unethical but unfortunately this unethical discussion was started by Dr. Hoodboy. He first targeted OMJ & AA by calling them lair, media Taliban etc etc.
    In my opinion, Dr. Hoodboy should restrict himself to the context of the book and try to clear the “misinterpretation” by quoting from the book, but he dint do this.


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