PRESS FREEDOM: Pakistan emulates China to muzzle people’s voice

BEIJING, Oct. 9, 2019 (Xinhua) -- Chinese President Xi Jinping meets with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, capital of China, Oct. 9, 2019. (Xinhua/Liu Weibing/IANS) by .
Chinese President Xi Jinping with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan (File)
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The Imran Khan government, prodded by the military, used all devious means to gag the media in a major onslaught on civil liberties, according to a new report on media censorship released by Pak-based Institute for Research, Advocacy and Development (IRADA) …. A special report by Asian Lite Newsdesk

UNITED NATIONS, Sept. 25, 2019 (Xinhua) -- Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan attends a luncheon hosted by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for the Heads of Delegation to the 74th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, at the UN headquarters in New York, Sept. 24, 2019. (Xinhua/Li Muzi/IANS) by Li Muzi.
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan

The Communists are known for propaganda and stifling dissident voices. But Pakistan is now emulating its neighbour to bury criticism. It blocked about one million websites and forced off human rights activists and opposition politicians off the air on TV channels. Besides that the state came down heavily on print and other media through various coercive and suppressing measures in the past one year.

There was a virtual ban on the live coverage of press conferences and statements by opposition leaders and civil rights groups. Protests against the military and negative stories about China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) were kept off the channels and print media.

The Imran Khan government, prodded by the military, used all devious means to gag the media in a major onslaught on civil liberties, according to a new report on media censorship released by Pak-based Institute for Research, Advocacy and Development (IRADA).

One of the tactics of suppression deployed by the state was the onslaught of “advisories, directives, and show cause” notices to private television channels by the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra).

Another example was the mass blocking of websites, over 900,000, for allegedly  “carrying blasphemous and pornographic content or sentiments against the state, judiciary and the armed forces”.

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan. (File Photo: XINHUA/IANS) by .
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan.

According to the  Executive Director of IRADA, Muhammad Aftab Alam,  “throughout the year, the Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf government remained consistently focused on shackling both the mainstream media and social media reflecting dictatorial tendencies and authoritarian attitudes indicating that the government did not brook criticism of any kind from any medium”.

The latest onslaught unleashed by the state comes in the form unprecedented legislative restrictions on social media. The law makes it mandatory for all social media platform operators to open offices in Pakistan, required to submit information such as subscriber information, traffic data and content data to a designated investigation agency when sought, failing which they can be fined up to Rs500 million. These rules are designed for the state to easily hunt down violators and block all “offensive“ materials online.

READ: Dawn journalist Cyril Almeida quits as Imran Khan govt assault on Pakistani media continues- http://bit.ly/2vuHrOj

As the English newspaper, The Express Tribune wrote in an editorial  that the Imran Khan government was extremely touchy about criticism and the new law could turn out to be a handy tool to silence any dissenting voice.

The English daily, Dawn, called it “an exercise which bears all the tell-tale signs of a clampdown on the freedom of expression.“ The newspaper pointed out how vague and dangerous some of the definitions included in the legislation were. For instance, extremism has been defined as  “violent, vocal or active opposition to fundamental values of the state including the security, integrity or defence of Pakistan, public order, decency or morality, the rule of law, individual liberty and the mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs”. This opens the door for the state to come down on any one who even by mistake makes a comment seem to be critical of the government, leave alone the military and other `holy cows` in Pakistan.

The Imran Khan government and the military are desperate to shut up its own people, many of whom are taking courage to speak up against the atrocities heaped on them. Prime Minister Imran Khan, who projects himself as a liberal leader of `naya Pakistan`, is turning out to be a despotic puppet of the military.

 

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