Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Why Dawn.com editor Jahanzaib Haque was wrong to have tweeted about the KGS event

Much has been said about Dawn.com editor Jahanzaib Haque's tweets that he did after attending a careers fair at his alma mater, Karachi Grammar School. The Express Tribune, where me and Jahanzaib were colleagues, even did a story on it here and whether they should or shouldn't have done it is an entirely separate debate.

Many people on Twitter including some dear friends have expressed solidarity and support with him saying that he was courageous to have done what he did. Part of this may also have to do with the fact that many people want to be seen on the right side of a dispute so that their chances of being published by a major online site are not negatively impacted in any way. 

That said,this entire debate misses a couple of crucial points and they need to be spelt out. Of course, it goes without saying that the issue is not that one cannot or should not criticise ones former school or university. This is a very common thing because people often have good or bad experiences while in school but the context in which such criticism is made can lessen its validity.

 Jahanzaib was on the same panel as me and was an invited guest of the Old Grammarians Society (OGS) which has been organising this event for some years now for the benefit of the schools students. We also had Faizan Syed, CEO of Health TV, on the panel and the three sessions we had were lively and engaging with participating students asking many questions related to journalism and the media.

The point essentially is that since he was an invited guest of the OGS and went presumably of his own volition, such tweets (see below -- at least two which ridiculed other speakers at the fair) were clearly in poor taste. That is a thoroughly unprofessional thing to do and in very poor taste. You don't accept an invite from an organisation or institution for an event and then use that occasion to make fun of it and ridicule others who attended it -- and that too to thousands of your Twitter followers from a handle that identifies you as the editor of a major online news site.

 By all means, Jahanzaib can hate his old school all he wants but then perhaps he shouldn't have accepted the invitation in the first place (in fact, during the panel sessions, he actively sought out its students for internships). He should have politely declined instead of saying on Twitter "in my defence I refused five times". Furthermore, to have tweeted what he did, from his handle which identifies him in a position of some authority and responsibility shows a lack of judgment on what an editor's job entails. 

These principles are so basic that one is surprised that the editor of a major news website seems to have been entirely unaware of them.