Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Pakistan - Media Crack Down

Normally, I wouldn't post a comment from an earlier thread, but I think this comment demands it:

Instead of strenghtening the content and quality of Pakistan's newly established news channels, the government instructed cable tv operators since 31 May not to carry those covering events it considers "unfavourable".

Just a fornight after threatening attacks on Aaj TV, three senior journalists - two working for Agence France Press and one for Associated Press - have received envelopes containing gun bullets as clear death threats on 29 May in Karachi. This happens just four days after a council of ethnic extremists openly declared putting those journalists on a 'black list'. There is a constant climate of coercion against all norms of civility at the hand of some ethnic extremists. One after another, the judiciary, the local media and now even those working for international media are being meted out blatant intimidation.

The Media Retribution Council of pro-MQM elders has issued list of ‘chauvinist’ journalists complaining that such elements expose the wrongdoings without being intimidated.

Threatening media personnel is not an aberration for MQM.

It is a persistence posture of intimidation evident for the past five years that MQM is a coalition partner in Sind province and at the centre.

A number of senior MQM leaders continue to enjoy freedom in the world's capital for independent media, but they haven't learnt the significance and value of empowering the middle-cleass and the down-trodden with free expression. On the contrary they have launched a campaign to silence and punish those who have the ability to raise voice on behalf of the voiceless. MQM claims that it champions "moderation" in Pakistan. MQM has 42 MPAs in the Provincial Assembly of Sindh and 07 Provincial Ministers and 8 Advisors in the Province of Sindh. Why then the country's educationally and professionally enlightened and most moderate legal personnel have fallen totally out of line with them? Was it really necessary to harass the Karachi's lawyer community?

Maltreatment of female journalists

All boundaries of civility were trampled when a female reporter of Daily Times was held on the roadside on gun-point not far away from a police patrol.

The Urooj Zia episode is a telling evidence of what kind of treatment is meted out to eduated female professionals by groups claiming to be the vanguard of moderation!

It also speaks of the attitude accorded to journalists even when they happen to pass by a street. The fact that a gun was placed on Urooj Zia's head speaks for itself the sanctity of a peaceful citizen disregarded and disgraced. What adds salt to the injury is the indifferent, unhelpful and rather shameful attitude of those expected to enforce law and order and provide all possible protection to law abiding citizens.

* Some weeks earlier, worrisome reports surfaced how women representatives are manhandled by MQM thugs in local assembly sessions:

Media activists should demand from MQM how much it has has helped Pakistan move towards pluralistic, tolerant and accomodative polity?

In addition to the timely notice by the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX), International Federation of Journalists, Reporters Without Borders too has voiced serious concerns over threats issued to Pakistani reporters covering the causes and consequences of the 12 May tragedy in Karachi.

The International Federation of Journalists, Reporters Without Borders have voiced serious concerns over threats issued to Pakistani reporters covering the causes and consequences of the 12 May tragedy in Karachi. See related links below:

In effect, a free hand was given to mobs to mercilessly quell moderate lawyers and quashing enlightened journalists who were covering the events. There are sad indications that irreparable blows have been inflicted on key components of the civil society in Pakistan that mostly comprise of, represent and cater to vastly moderate elements of Pakistan’s society:

Was it really necessary to harass and intimidate the Karachi's lawyer community?

In fact, Altaf Hussain's policies and actions are a disservice to Western efforts to promote moderation in Pakistan. Why then Altaf Hussain has launched a confrontation with the country's educationally and professionally enlighted and most moderate legal personnel?

While Musharraf claims to be in coalition with forces of moderation but in deeds it is open collision with the country's civic actors, judiciary and the media.

* This section was added later as the comment was incomplete and the author was kind enough to email the whole message through to me again.