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. The government and the military are desperate to shut up its own people, many of whom are taking courage to speak up against corruption and the atrocities heaped on them ….writes Kaliph Anaz
The Pakistani media forums and the community associations are protesting in front of diplomatic missions across the world for the immediate release of Jang and Geo’s Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman.
Community leaders and journalists protested outside Pakistan High Commission near Sloane Square in central London to urge the government to release Mr Rahman stop gagging the media through National Accountability Bureau (NAB). They also condemned the shutdown of Geo News by the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra).
Prominent leaders from the PPP, PML-N, Jamat-e-Islami, PSP and ANP addressed the crowd and promised support to all campaigns for media freedom in Pakistan. The protesters carry placards saying: “Geo aur Jeenay do” (Live and Let live), “Free Media in Pakistan, we don’t accept the suppression of media in Pakistan” and “Free Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman.”
International Pakistani Journalists Organisation (IPJO) issued a statement condemning the arrest of Mr Rahman.
“The arrest of Jang group Editor-in-Chief is not only a case of victimisation but it is also an attempt to quash the truth which should be condemned,” IPJO General Secretary Raza Syed said in the statement. “We will support Jang Group to save press freedom in Pakistan. NAB has been misused to target the largest media group but this act of victimisation will not achieve the desired results.”
Reporters without Borders, Council for Protection of Journalists and various other international journalism bodies have also condemned the detention of Mr Rahman in a 35-year-old case.
The arrest of a word-renowned editor and shutting down of the channel exposed the true face of Imran Khan Government which emulates the Communist China to suppress press freedom in Pakistan.
The Niazi regime recently 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.
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”.
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
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.
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.