‘Politicians, not journalists, are public representatives’
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‘Politicians, not journalists, are public representatives’

Muhsen Ali Turk says a journalist should move towards other roles like books and column writing, teaching and consultancy etc. after serving not more than 20 years in the profession.

by Fraaz Mahmud Kasuri

Journalism is also considered to be an essential profession in Pakistan like other parts of the world, as everybody wants to be informed and updated. All we know and talk about mostly comes from news sources. So, a journalist, either reporting from the field or working in a newsroom, is always in demand. Let’s have a talk with Muhsen Ali Turk, a journalist who is in demand not only in the field but also in the newsroom.

Q – Tell us something about yourself first.

I am a professional journalist and I have been working with various newspapers since 1997 at different positions. In my professional career, I started as a reporter and went on to the position of a news editor as well. I have also been working with different non-government organisations as consultant but they were not paid jobs. I have also done some digital media projects as co-founder; Country Today is also one of them.

Q – Which job or project did you like the most?

Well! To talk about jobs, I enjoyed my time at Daily Times and Pakistan Today a lot. I contributed what I could in these jobs. The number of projects that I did is not that big but any project that I did with students and youth has been my best project.

Q – Which reporting beat you enjoy working on?

I have been working on Kashmir beat in the early days of my journalism. During my jobs in Islamabad and Peshawar, I also worked on Afghan affairs and issues of refugees for some time. Right now, I am working on the beats of human rights, civil society, and religious and ethnic minorities.

Q – What is your stance on Kashmir issue?

As you know that I am Kashmiri by birth, so I have a lot of association with Kashmir affairs. For me, both Pakistan and India would never go back from their ‘political’ stances or you can say military-backed approaches. In my opinion, both are hurting the Kashmir issue by doing so. There should be peace between the two countries at any cost. Both Islamabad and New Delhi should be friendly enough to represent the South Asian region together (along with Bangladesh) at the United Nations. Regionally, we are Indians and not Arabs and we should take care of our regional integrity first.

Muhsen Ali Turk

Q – Your views about minorities in Pakistan?

We need to run Pakistan according to the vision of Mr Muhammad Ali Jinnah. Here we need to take care of the religious as well as ethnic minorities. We need to respect the religious places of all the minorities, as Pakistan belongs to all. I believe that all minorities are adding more beautiful colours in Pakistan’s religious diversity. I want to say here that after the national independence of Bangladesh in 1971, Pakistan should have signed a new social contract with all regions within the state boundaries so that everyone might live peacefully, equally and with full confidence.

Q – You got foreign qualification as well. How was the experience?

I did graduation from Pakistan. Then, under media exchange programmes, first I went to China for my post-graduation diploma and then to the United States for an investigative journalism programme. Both programmes were proved life changing experiences for me. I would suggest our youth as well to avail such opportunities that are mostly full-funded.

Q – Which government do you support as an analyst?

In Pakistan, all the democratic governments have been doing well. We need to support democracy and democratic institutions. Our supreme national institution is the Parliament House and rests are just services. According to me, the governments of the Pakistan Muslim League-N and the Pakistan People’s Party did wonderful jobs. I believe democratic voices should not be hushed; they should be backed and promoted as icons. I rate Manzoor Pashteen as an ideal politician because he talks about his people. Inspiring movements for civil rights, Manzoor Pashteen introduced nonviolent resistance to lead successful campaigns for public rights besides pointing out bad governance and lawlessness.

Q – What should be Pakistan’s regional approach?

We need to work more on sustainable peace with India and Afghanistan to bring stability in the resourceful South Asian region. I believe that a peaceful region would ensure long-term interstate relations. Also, we have to maintain trust-based relations with Iran as well. We have to strictly avoid ‘game plans’ and destructive approaches of one country against the other country.

Q – What major changes new media has caused in Pakistan?

The advent of new media or the digital media has changed the structure of overall media industry in Pakistan. Earlier, it was a trend to lunch media houses just to protect some interests of owners or their friends. Nobody can befool you anymore as everybody is connected with the help of Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, Signal, Telegram, Instagram, YouTube and TikTok etc, and any news and information can be verified on the spot.

Q – Should professional education be made compulsory to join media industry?

Off course! Professional education should be made compulsory and hiring should be on merit. I would also say that media schools should also improve themselves. There should be an independent degree awarding professional media school like the National College of Arts.

Q – Any new project you are working on?

As co-founder, I am working on a wonderful project that is Town Life, a digital newspaper from Lahore. Founded by Mr Safdar Ali who is a known media professional, the paper will cover social and political issues, education, lifestyle and blogs. the active participation of young professionals, this paper will on air some dedicated shows through YouTube and I hope public will enjoy these theme-based programs.

Q – Your message for the journalist community.

A journalist should work for at least 20 years in the profession and then he/she should move towards other roles like book and column writing, teaching and consultancy etc. I request senior journalists to leave space for young people so that the media industry may flourish with fresh minds. We also need to make media industry friendly for women as well because, even today, fewer females join and continue in media.

One more thing that I want to convey to my media friends is that, as journalists, we are supposed to protect public interests and we have nothing to do with ‘national interest’. I believe that politicians or elected persons, and certainly not journalists, are public representatives. Believe me journalists are part of the public.

Muhsen Ali Turk

NOTE – Muhsen Ali Turk is a council member of the Lahore Press Club in Lahore since 2007, and remained the elected member of the Executive Council once. He is member of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) since 2000. He also served the Central Press Club in Muzaffarabad as a joint secretary in 1999. Currently, he is also teaching media studies at a public sector university in Lahore.

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