March 6, 2011

Kurdish Mass Media ---- Plus or Minus?
“Give me a newspaper and I will make a villain of a hero and a hero of a villain for you.” - By Dr. Rashid Karadaghi

If a newspaper can do that, imagine what a s television station that runs twenty-four hours a day can do with all the carefully selected visual images (Remember what the Chinese say about a picture being “worth a thousand words”?) not to mention the even-more-carefully-selected parade of guest-speakers!

The immense power of the mass media is self-evident, especially in the modern age. So much so that “Facebook” a social media form, has been credited with fomenting the Egyptian revolution, which is spreading like wildfire throughout the entire Middle East and North Africa.

Even though it has no official power, the media is no less powerful than any one of the three branches of government ---- the Executive, the Legislative, and the Judiciary ---- for it shapes public opinion, which can either uphold a government or bring it down, as the case may be. In the hands of fair-minded people, the media can play a constructive role in society, for it can enlighten the public and act as watchdog over all governmental operations. Conversely, it can play a divisive and destructive role if it is in the hands of partisan people whose only concern is the interest of their political party, not  that of the people as a whole.

My criticism here is mainly of the discussion programs and, to a lesser degree, of the news reporting on both Kurdistan TV and Kurdsat. Since KNN can’t be received here in the US, I cannot judge with any degree of certainty the fairness of its programming, but I can safely assume it probably is following in the footsteps of the other two satellite channels more or less. It is true that these channels are partisan outlets, but that doesn’t mean they should be free to violate some of the most fundamental rules of fairness in the journalistic profession. A degree of fairness is still to be expected in their programming if they expect to be credible by the viewing public, otherwise the viewer would dismiss them as partisan mouthpieces that serve the interest of a particular party, not that of the Kurdish people.

Of all the discussion programs I have been watching, especially since the start of the uprising in Kurdistan in mid-February, I haven’t seen or heard a single guest, or person who calls into the program, who has expressed the views of the opposition or any view that the moderator doesn’t fully agree with. The result is that you don’t have a dialogue but a continuous monologue by different people, day after day, but with the same message: We are totally in the right and everybody else is totally in the wrong. No enlightening debate or dialogue can take place unless you have differing points of view on the same program, which I haven’t seen even once on these two channels. Maybe this is what the programmers and decision-makers and moderators think true journalism is because they don’t know any better. But cancelling out and demonizing “the other,” is neither fair journalism nor good politics, especially when, by its absence, “the other” is not given a chance to defend itself or express its views.

Some of the views expressed on these channels are very one-sided, biased, illogical, and outrageous; they are an insult to the intelligence of the average viewer. The people in charge of these satellite channels must understand that, in the long run, this practice will hurt the very political party it is supposed to serve because instead of winning the viewers over, it turns them off and makes them angry. The strongly partisan people may love the practice, but the vast majority of the population is repulsed by it.

The people in charge of these television stations seem to forget that they are supported by funds from the state budget and these funds are public money belonging to all the people, not any particular political party. Therefore, they should serve the interest of the entire Kurdish people, not a political party.

In fairness, the reporting of the news isn’t as bad as the so-called “discussion” programs, but it, too, doesn’t measure up to the true standards of news reporting. A news reporter is a reporter, not an advocate, a distinction which is totally lost on Kurdish news reporters. A reporter should not editorialize; he should report the news as it happens and let the viewer make up his own mind about it. Yet, almost every Kurdish reporter acts as an advocate and slants his reporting to fit the views of the political party he is a member of. And it goes without saying that no one would get to be a reporter unless he were a  member of the political party which owns the television station he works for.

Finally, old habits are hard to break, but I hope that the people who are running the show at these Kurdish satellite TV channels would take a serious look at how damaging their one-sided coverage of the Kurdish situation is to the overall Kurdish national cause, which we all want to serve. I also hope that they look at how programming is done in the US and Europe and try to emulate them in order to truly serve their viewers better. Right now, they are very far from that.


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