Pakistani TV anchors turn moral police, spark outrage
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Late last month, a dentist-turned-anchorperson of Pakistani news TV channel Express News gatecrashed into a massage parlour in Lahore with her cameraman and two policemen and "uncovered" an alleged brothel.
She is believed to have ransacked the parlour, ordered the cops around, threatened arrest and the policemen seemed to obey dutifully. Express News telecast the incident on February 1.
It wasn't the first incident of its kind but the latest in a growing trend of Pakistan's aggressive news TV channels taking to moral policing and vigilantism in a battle for popularity and ratings. The phenomenon has offended viewers and media observers and the two sides often confront each other in the social media.
Kamran Shahid, a former college lecturer and now anchor on Dunya TV's show 'On the front with Kamran Shahid', about a month ago suggested doing away with co-education in Pakistan's universities as a measure to curb sexual harassment of female students.
In the Lahore incident, Dr Maria Zulfiqar, a little known Express News anchor who hosts a show called Baat se Baat, allegedly forced open the doors of a massage parlour run by Chinese and Russian women and threatened a Pakistani employee that she would get her arrested if she didn't admit the place was a brothel.
Among the more infamous incidents that marked the early days of this trend involved anchor Maya Khan "raiding" parks in Karachi in January last year to "catch" dating couples for her breakfast show Subah sawere Maya Khan ke saath on CNBC Samaa TV. Cameras were shoved in the faces of couples in total disregard of their privacy. They were bullied and questioned if they were married and if their parents knew what they were up to.
Not surprisingly, the phenomena has sparked outrage among Pakistani rights activists and ordinary TV viewers, some of whom have taken to Twitter and Facebook to brand this as moral policing.