By Justice Markandey Katju
This morning when I was browsing Twitter, I came across this tweet of the well-known and highly-respected Pakistani journalist Raza Rumi, who publishes the portal nayadaur.tv.
“Rumors of #ShoaibSania divorce have left fans sad. Lots of social media commentary on @RabiaAnumm walking out of Nida Yasir show. And much more in this chit chat at @NayaDaurLS — with @IrfanFaiza1019 @madiha_masood @waqas464 and @thealiwarsi https://youtu.be/gSUuMi14JMQ #lifestyle
Now I respect Raza. He is one of the Pakistani journalists who has maintained his integrity and independence despite all kinds of pressures. But here I thought Raza deserved sharp criticism, and this is why.
The Pakistani test cricketer Shoaib Malik married the Indian tennis star Sania Mirza in 2010, and they have a son. Now it is learnt there is a rift between the two, and some say they are actually divorced.
Some say the cause of the rift is that Shoaib cheated on Sania.
Whatever may be the truth, whether the couple are in fact estranged or divorced, and if so, what caused it, are to my mind trivial matters and fade into insignificance when compared to the huge problems that the Pakistani people are facing – skyrocketing prices of essential commodities, massive unemployment, lack of proper healthcare, corruption, etc, which is apart from the bankrupt economy for which the Pakistani ministers have been going around the world with a begging bowl, and the recent massive floods.
I have always been of the opinion that the media is an organ which should largely serve the people, and address itself to their economic problems, which are the real issues. Hence to highlight a divorce (even of celebrities) is irresponsible on the part of the media, particularly at a time when the people of Pakistan are groaning under the crushing economic forces, and are finding it next to impossible to make two ends meet.
So in response to Raza Rumi’s post, I tweeted: “Pakistan is still reeling due2floods&terrible economic crisis e.g. skyrocketing prices, massive unemployment, etc, but @Razarumi can only think of Shoaib Sania divorce. Shows total lack of sense of proportion & priorities.”
Raza responded with this tweet: “You are patently spreading false information. Doesn’t suit a man of your stature. I shared a link of many things done daily on ND platform. What a pity that you would start a campaign against me.”
I was surprised and pained on seeing this. What false information was I spreading about Raza? And what campaign had I started against him? I had only expressed my opinion that to highlight a divorce when the Pakistani public was reeling due to huge inflation, massive unemployment, and now the floods, was to my mind an irresponsible act on the part of the media, and was in fact an act meant to divert attention of the people from their real issues to relative trivialities. This was just like most of the Indian media which diverts public attention from economic problems to Hindu-Muslim animosity, thus increasing polarisation in society.
Queen Marie Antoinette of France had said that if the people do not have bread, they should eat cake. Today the Pakistani media was saying if the people of Pakistan do not have bread, they should hear about a divorce case of celebrities.
So, I tweeted a reply to Raza that while I respected him, I had a right to criticize him when I felt he was in the wrong, and that the media should address people’s real issues, which were economic, instead of highlighting a divorce, which was really a non-issue, and something aimed at getting ‘masala’ for the media.
I also told Raza that he should take my criticism in the right spirit, instead of getting upset, and should do introspection and correct his error.
However, Raza gave no reply, but a sidekick, Waqas, tweeted to me: “Sir, your ‘criticism’ only reflects the limitations of your personality. Nothing more. One would expect from a man of your stature to have more broad approach towards life. I must say you have disappointed me.”
All I can say is that I expected better of Raza, and I hope he will rethink and ponder over what I said. The media, both in India and Pakistan, needs a course correction, and should now start acting responsibly and serve the people. The people of our subcontinent are going through terrible times, and we need brave and patriotic media persons like Voltaire, Rousseau, Thomas Paine, etc who fought against social evils, and helped European society when it was in a transitional era in the 18th century.
By Justice Markandey Katju