The public outcry and eventual firing of Samaa TV show host Maya Khan may have been a spontaneous event, but this episode has laid the ground works for future media accountability in the shape of the newly established Citizens for Free and Responsible Media (CFRM).
This independent group of concerned citizens not only gave shape to the public outburst against Maya Khan in the form of emails to Samaa TV Chairperson Zafar Siddiqi and an online petition signed by over 5,000 people, they also successfully held A-Plus TV accountablefor their show Thori Si Bewafai , a show featuring (allegedly staged) vigilante-style raids on couples. As result of which, within a couple of hours of a petition having been put forward, the host of the show Shamoon Abbasi announced quitting the show. In a detailed message in response to the CFRM, Abbasi claimed to have quit the show as he personally disagreed with its format, and claimed he was only briefed on the show’s script upon reaching shoot locations.
In light of these cases, the CFRM released a press release on Saturday, stating:
“The degree of participation shown and encouragement by media consumers led us to come together under the umbrella of ‘Citizens for Free and Responsible Media (CFRM), Pakistan’. We function as a non-hierarchal platform with decisions taken by consensus among the core group members, with inputs from media consumers who can now join us on our Facebook page. People can also point out media transgressions and give their inputs here, to do their bit to ‘reduce the social cost of silence’.”
The CFRM has already gained over 700 followers on their Facebook page, which features updates on possible media infringements and articles related to media ethics. According to the CFRM, the goal is “…not to get channels banned or to get TV hosts or journalists fired, but to encourage channels to evolve their own set of guidelines and code of ethics in conjunction with senior producers, journalists and concerned citizens, to ensure that privacy and human dignity are not violated. We urge them to make these guidelines public…We also urge them to incorporate a channel for media consumers to approach in case of complaint or redress, and appoint internal ombudsmen for this purpose. We also urge the industry to revise the current ratings system, and align the ‘quality of content’ with the ‘quantity of viewership.’”