BBC’s Urdu service recently posted a video experimenting with content aimed at raising awareness on taboo subjects. This storytelling format video anonymously featured a woman who along with her family had to go through an ordeal because of lack of awareness. This video attracted mix reactions. Many called it ‘too bold’ while others praised it for stating the conversation. I was in the latter group. However, I came across another one of their videos where they feature Dr Samra Ameen, a ‘sexologist’ making dubious claims.
The video posed as awareness video carried mythical claims such as porn and masturbation cause premature ejaculation and impotency. She said porn and masturbation have spread like an epidemic. She went on to say that because of porn and masturbation, men end up not being able to perform when it comes to the actual time to have sex after marriage. She further said this causes memory loss, hair loss, weight loss and ‘brings your sexual health to zero’. “What will you be left with then? She asked. She even went on to say ‘HIV, meaning AIDS’ while continuing her ‘sex education’ which she ended with a self-congratulatory tone saying it’s probably too bold for the audience. She probably thought she’s doing something groundbreaking.
Now, I’m not a ‘sexologist’ so I won’t claim to say something scientific/medical on the subject but as an editor I had my alarms go off even after a few seconds into the video. I ran it by at least one sexual health medical practitioner who confirmed ‘what utter nonsense’ this was.
The fact that this video passed all the editorial checks of the Urdu service of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) shows how little awareness there is when it comes to sexual health and in such an environment, video like these create further problems than solving anything. Imagine the impact this would have already had on all the people who watched and shared it. They now have their myths strengthened and are probably in a more vulnerable situation than they were not knowing what they taught them.
Granted, these things can happen when journalists are working on tight schedules and deadlines. I’m also willing to give benefit of doubt that they did it in good faith and in their minds they were interviewing someone they thought was an expert. It still doesn’t absolve them of the responsibility. As for the expert, there isn’t a dearth of ‘licensed’ psychologists in Pakistan who prescribe Quran recitation to their patients. Should we start featuring them as well? Not to mention this wasn’t just an interview of a rogue ‘sexologist’, this posed as an education video.
I hope BBC Urdu genuinely means well and isn’t falling prey to the extremely competitive ‘numbers game’ in digital media which sometimes makes sensible journalists act like Daily Pakistan staffers.