Maulana Khalid Dhorat

Journalists, reporters and media personnel seem to be competing with the general public nowadays when reporting on some events. We are living in a frightening age where people not only die in their numbers due to wars or natural catastrophes, but due to vehicle collisions and accidents too. Many of these accidents are tragic to say the least – from the gruesome way the accident took place to the aftermath of how the family needs to pick up the pieces and move on. However, it seems the public have more insight on such stories than journalists nowadays!

Well, truly you cannot blame such enthusiasts. Some official journalists cannot even spell properly, some don’t have vehicles to reach the scene, for some it’s not important and for the majority of them, they are embedded and need to report to please the eyes of the one-eyed boss, not the uninformed public. However, by becoming a self-styled journalist, people sometimes post inaccurate information or describe the scene in such graphic detail that it will surely cause much pain and trauma to the family involved.

Every accident scene has a horror story. Sometimes mothers are separated from their children and the father needs to find a new caregiver for his children – this adjustment is never easy. At times, the limbs of some children are never recovered which plagues the parents as to the possibility of wild animals having ate them. Some are left paralyzed for life, often wrecked with the guilt of having being the cause of the accident and the loss of innocent lives. A woman may be left to fend for herself and her five children alone, and this leaves her not only vulnerable, but also at the mercy of others. A child may be placed in foster care because both his parents may have expired, or a brilliant doctor may now be in need of oxygen daily due to a concussion on his brain instead of treating others. A painter may never paint again and a scholar may never teach again. There are million permutations to each tragedy, and none are pleasant. Similarly, reliving such tragedy is never pleasant.

There is the drama aspect of each tragedy, and the human aspect. It seems that people are only interested in the drama aspect nowadays. If a man is drowning, everyone will be videoing him fluttering is desperation, but none will help. Humanity has truly lost its bearings. It must be remembered that just as no one walks out of an accident the same way he was before, likewise the painful memories of that scene will never leave him. Recently, a lovely girl with artistic abilities emerged from an accident with her hand amputated, and self-styled public journalists took the opportunity to speak of this talent which she could not use anymore. Will this insensitive type of reporting not break her heart? Self-styled journalists will harp on the fact that a person’s only son passed away, causing pangs of hurt to erupt within any father when he sees any male child. Is this not being insensitive to the deeper emotions of those affected?

A non-Muslim once said that he embraced Islam due to only one story he heard of our noble Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wa Sallam). A father, in panic, once came to the Noble Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wa Sallam) and pleaded him to pray for him because his son was missing for three days. He was asked to describe his son and upon doing so, someone from the Companions stood up and said: “O Prophet of Allah, I’ve just seen him playing on so-and so streets with some other children.” The man hastened to retrieve his son, but Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wa Sallam) called him back and said: “O person, when you see your son, you will be struck by emotions and you will want to hug him tightly and smother him with love, but do not do so. Maybe, amongst those other children, there are orphans who do not have a father and they will feel sad when seeing this. Yes, when you go home, then you can do so.” This was the noble example set by the Best of Creations.

Now let’s come to responsible reporting. Instead of detailing all the tragic aspects of a tragedy, speak of the positive aspects. Pointed questions to the survivors traumatizes them more: at what time exactly did it happen? How many bones were broken in your wife’s back? For how long were you unconscious… and a whole list of such questions. What happened is over and no amount of knowledge in knowing exactly how it happened will ever reverse the moment. So, rather move on and speak of the positive aspects of it. Our purpose is to inspire hope, and not dip into despondency.

Responsible and focused reporting is to focus on how we can help the survivors. Speak of the virtue of dying in an accident and how patient the survivors were. Community members can be urged to pray for the deceased and help him in certain ways. The outcome of such an approach will – Insha Allah – be positive, and not just for the sake of “reporting on the most juiciest aspects of the story first.”

Remember what our noble Nabi Muhammad (Sallallahu Alaihi Wa Sallam) advised: “And Allah is in the assistance of the one who is in the assistance of the other.” Lets be of assistance to others, not a nuisance. Let’s not only talk the talk, but walk the talk too …

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