Axact, Bol and Pakistani Journalism: What is at Stake!



A lot has happened since the New York Times published their deeply troubling investigative story about the shenanigans of Axact. The Pakistani authorities have now launched an investigation into the dealings of the company, the leading journalists recruited by Bol, an affiliate of Axact, have now left the new network, some for the reasons of “conscience.”

For right now, the Pakistani government and media have discussed this story only from the perspective of Pakistan’s image in the world. But this, I suggest, is more than just an image problem.

That a shady corporation selling fake degrees almost got away with launching a major media channel in Pakistan is what we should be looking at closely. Furthermore, this channel, funded by a fake corporation, was able to recruit some leading journalist, including some who call themselves investigative journalists, is another question we need to follow. How did these journalists, who have the power to shape public perceptions in Pakistan and whose job it is to reveal the truth, got roped in by a corporation that specialized in smoke and mirrors? Shouldn’t these pundits and opinion-makers have been more inquisitive and critical when they were signing their lucrative contracts?

The would be Chief Editor of Bol, Kamran Khan, a household name in Pakistani TV  journalism, just resigned though a tweet:

Charges against Axact far from proven in court but my conscience not letting me continue.I’ve decided to disassociate from Bol immediately.

Sounds a lot like a fat rat jumping a sinking ship! But the main questions is about how the rat got on the ship? I mean how do you become the Chief Editor of a company without knowing how it is being funded? Isn’t it your job as a journalist to at least check? Unless, of course, you are not really a journalist and have relied  on average clichés and platitudes to rise as a titan amongst your fellow pygmies, all clamoring to become the loudest and most ill-informed so-called journalists.

Yes, we should certainly explore and take Axact to task for their shady dealings, but these journalists also need to account for their uncurious stance on the company that they eagerly joined and have now disavowed through hasty tweets. Are these the people we should trust to reveal the truth and to keep the public informed?

The plight of Bol journalists leads us to larger and more troubling questions about Pakistani journalism. Can we seriously trust our media networks and those who “pose” as investigative journalists on these networks? As readers and viewers, do we behave like silent recipients of revealed “truths” by these demagogues or should we be active and seek out the hidden agendas behind their pronouncements. It has been proven to us already, by these uncurious journalists, that their investigative skills are so dull that they could not even look into the funding sources of their own employer. A more dangerous thought, however, is to acknowledge that maybe they knew about it, but the money was too good. Either way, these so-called journalists were either too dumb to have asked the pertinent questions of their employer, or were “bought” with the foreknowledge that the network they were joining was built on ill-gotten gains.

We Pakistanis have always fallen for such scams: remember the water car! There is nothing wrong with expecting more than the average from our writers, scientists, leaders and journalists; it is only natural to aspire for individual and collective greatness!

But it is also crucial to become critically aware citizens so that we develop the most important habit of living in a democratic society: Asking questions!