I turned on the TV last night to get a look at the headline news…. and there was no news! Two of the biggest news channels, “Geo News and Aaj TV were off the air”:http://www.dawn.com/2007/06/04/top4.htm, and the rest of the news channels were futzing about with everything but local news. Al Jazeera is already telling us about the 50 odd people dead in Baghdad every day, but today was the first time the local news channels kept on talking about Iraq, the Ms. Universe beauty pageant and some minor US officials visit to god knows where.
There is a “discussion over at Pakistaniat on the censorship”:http://pakistaniat.com/2007/06/04/crackdown-on-geo-news with a lot more detail. On top on all the routine censorship, on June 4th, the govt.”also passed a law to make it easier to censor for them”:http://www.dawn.com/2007/06/05/top1.htm. The best part of the new censorship law is that they can pass new ones as they see fit on an ad hoc basis. This makes the courts a bit redundant, as now the govt. can do whatever it wants, and just issue new rules to cover up as they go.
There is “a lot of pressure on the media”:http://pakistaniat.com/2007/06/02/pakistan-electronic-media-siege-perma-shahid-masood-kamran-talat-army-slogans/ to toe the govt. line, but now even politicians from the ruling party are breaking ranks and airing their two bits on the telly. So here is a quick listing of what the govt. has been up to in it’s endless pursuit of press freedom:
# Refusing to provide protection to journalists receiving “death threats”:http://thenews.com.pk/daily_detail.asp?id=58950.
# Sending police to break into a TV channel’s office and trashing the place
# Sending gunmen (the MQM) to lay siege to Aaj TV’s office
# “Banning books”:http://ko.offroadpakistan.com/pakistan/2007_06/military_inc_inside_pakistans_military_economy.html
# “Banning websites”:http://ko.offroadpakistan.com/pakistan/2006_09/body_set_up_to_block_websites.html
# “Blackmailing and pressurizing the Dawn Group”:http://www.dawn.com/events/appendix/index.htm, along with just about every other media group in the country.
# Pulling numerous talk shows of the air on and off the past couple of months on what seems to be a purely whimsical basis
# Last, but not least, all live transmissions have to be approved by the govt. This means that only those events which the govt. approves of can air. “#”:http://www.dawn.com/2007/06/05/top1.htm
There is a whole list of other things – behind the scenes there is a whole lot of desperate measures being taken to try to get the situation under control. A good one was the army exhorting the nation to respect them, or else! When you have to order someone to respect you, than that respect was already lost a long time ago.
And so the cookie crumbles…