Arrest of vlogger Imran Riaz sparks debate over who is a working journalist and who is part of the ‘hybrid cadre’?


By Agha Iqrar Haroon

Vlogger and presenter Imran Riaz Khan was arrested in Islamabad Toll Plaza on Tuesday evening, with several cases filed against him for complicity in mutiny and criticism of state institutions. In his video message, Imran asked all journalists to speak out about his arrest.

Imran Riaz Khan’s arrest has again sparked a debate among working journalists over the status of working journalists, paratrooper presenters and “hybrid cadres” in Pakistani journalism.

Imran Riaz Khan was on the guest lists of almost all important state institutions and receptions and had an outstanding relationship with the state in the past. He is one of those who are usually called “parachute journalists”. Paratroopers are those who have either been landed directly on television screens without going through the journalism mill, or placed in junior positions in the media for a period of time and then launched directly onto television screens. Journalists working in Pakistan call them paratroopers and also a “hybrid cadre” of journalism.

This framework was developed in Pakistan around 2008 to mitigate professional journalists and this hybrid framework was called Sahafi (journalist). Mocking politicians and Parliament and discrediting working journalists has been the core mandate of members of this hybrid cadre. Their articles and talk shows end up leaving a message that all politicians are corrupt and that the parliamentary system has failed to deliver on its promises. Therefore, a new constitution is needed to replace the parliamentary system with a presidential form of government or any other political system in which power rests with a single person instead of directly elected representatives of the masses.

By abusing politicians and mocking working journalists, Parliament and the Constitution, this group of vloggers, bloggers, presenters and political analysts have successfully filled television screens and the main places in the pages of opinion in 2014. They were elevated to the rank of senior experts. , senior analysts and social scientists by public institutions and publicly funded think tanks.

By 2018, they had already replaced working journalists who reached television screens and opinion pages after traveling long distances via newspaper newsrooms or reporting rooms. Soon, this new executive became the spokesperson for various power grids. The front rows at press briefings and dinners at the Presidency, Prime Minister’s House, Prime Ministers’ Houses and Governor’s Houses were filled with these hybrid journalists. Hundreds of unknown websites without physical addresses or credible names have been launched to establish this framework as “credible writers”.

Seasoned and active journalists had no choice but to watch what was happening and survive the social and economic stranglehold they were experiencing. Unfortunately, there are no rules established by the state to determine who can be a journalist. Therefore, this new cadre who had never been in journalism before landing in the media met with no resistance from right-wing journalists’ platforms. This new cadre is made up of doctors, car dealers, engineers, showbiz celebrities, bank clerks, shopkeepers, real estate developers, and retired officials from the civil-military bureaucracy. Some of them were placed in the media as researchers or journalists for a time, then transferred within a year or so to television screens. They are those who did not choose journalism as a career like any working and professional journalist, but they entered this arena in the pure quest to enjoy the power and pleasure that a manipulative and cunning media might enjoy.

Having no ethical teaching of journalism, this cadre from day one was considered dangerous because this cadre can abuse anyone and no one can touch him due to the power and contacts he enjoys in the system and they are protected layer by layer. Imran Riaz Khan was one of the leaders of this cadre and now the leader of the PTI media campaign against the Pakistani army.

There is a saying “enough is enough” and finally the state has decided to suppress this propaganda against the Pakistani army which only serves the enemies of the Pakistani state. Intelligence circles confirm that dozens of people who had campaigned against state institutions have already been arrested, it seems that the crackdown will continue as planned, all those arrested are believed to belong to the former government and are part of the cyber warfare wing of the PTI including Imran Riaz Khan.

They are the ones who harassed former opposition members and considered it part of their duty to abuse the Constitution of Pakistan, parliament and politicians who do not belong to the PTI.

Since the PTI government was constitutionally eliminated in the National Assembly, PTI supporters have disobeyed conventional norms of public speaking from the outset, creating a space heavily polluted with insults, name-calling, and game-playing. sarcastic words. Shameless driving becomes the new normal and Pakistan. The PTI insult brigade can call names, mock others, imitate in the most sarcastic way and provide justification that normativity should not be on the backbone, what is right and what is wrong , everything is subjective and the old standards are redundant. If someone listens to Imran Riaz Khan’s vlogs and watches his TV shows, one can find all the recipes mentioned above in the diction he uses for the Pakistani army and other public institutions.

Pakistani media are left with paratroopers and real journalists. The first, working for the PTI, and the second against the PTI, left no room for seasoned and impartial journalists. Real media experts live in dismay and disappointment. Neither the establishment nor the opposition were interested in their concern, the same concern that the establishment expresses today. That’s the problem with a patriotic pro-state reporter that no one feels threatened so no one pays attention. There had been no funding for impartial think tanks and independent news agencies because they were not part of the problem. Those who were part of the problem were funded either to continue to be a problem or to stop being a problem.

The hybrid propaganda continues its infiltration and now targets the establishment with the same quirkiness. Unbiased, dedicated, and patriotic working journalists consider themselves “non-entities” because they are not part of the problem, they are not anti-state, and they avoid political affiliation, so they are virtually useless, except barely noticed.

A writer and analyst Shazia Anwer Cheema, an expert in the philosophy of communication, rightly mentioned in her article “PTI’s ‘Slur Brigade’ Target Status – You’re Useless If You’re Not Part of the Problem” that the mechanism of the insult brigade, also provide the consequences but my articles are not worth noticing because neither am I calling out the opposition nor am I throwing dirty puns at the state so why invest in me in terms of nature and money, why not keep on fighting the fire, why pay attention to the source of the fire?


The views and opinions expressed in this article/opinion/commentary are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the DND Think Tank and Dispatch News Bureau (DND). Assumptions made in the analysis do not reflect the position of the DND Think Tank and the Dispatch News Desk.


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