As the global media watched and covered the election in Pakistan, local journalists were denied entry to several polling stations despite having accreditation issued by the national Election Commission.
“We have orders from the top not to allow media people at the polling station,” an army officer deployed at Mohni Road in Lahore said. Similarly, reporters were not allowed to enter polling stations in Lahore Cantonment. “Without a permission letter from Inter Services Public Relations [the military’s media arm], media people are not allowed to enter the Cantt area,” an army official deployed at an entry point in Lahore said.
Earlier, a senior journalist and correspondent for the Urdu daily Nawa-i-Waqt, Matiullah Jan was targeted after he was critical of the military and judiciary. Matiullah believes he was attacked by “vested interests” hurt by his journalism and social media activism. This is the second time he has been targeted. “To gag a journalist is to gag a society,” he remarked.
Who are these vagabonds who have the guts to attack, torture and threaten journalists in broad day light and always get away with it? When will the timid interior minister and timid govt act to logically conclude on going investigations in similar attacks on journos?
— Matiullah Jan (@Matiullahjan919) January 10, 2018
These are just a few examples of how journalists were gagged or intimidated ahead of an unprecedented general election. In fact, some of the country’s influential media houses and their staff reporters were systematically targeted. The military spokesman Major General Asif Ghafoor even said at a press conference that a number of journalists including Matiullah were “anti-state” and “anti-military”.
“Those are serious allegations in Pakistan, where the military has ruled, directly or indirectly, for most of the country’s history, and where rights groups say it is waging an unprecedented campaign of intimidation ahead of next month’s elections”, Pakistan Today reported on June 26.
Major media outlets targeted
The Pakistan Army particularly targeted the country’s three leading media outlets — Dawn Group, Geo News and Jang Group — who were coerced to drop some columnists and purge certain stories. While Jang, the leading Urdu daily in Pakistan, was not allowed to deliver in the cantonment areas, the country’s largest English newspaper Dawn was more systematically targeted. It had recently published an editorial recounting a continued onslaught in a “wide-ranging and seemingly coordinated manner”.
Significantly, Dawn‘s allegations were corroborated by the latest findings of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. It castigated the “systematic curtailment of freedom of expression in the form of press advice, intimidation and harassment”, reportedly perpetrated by state or intelligence agencies, which has left many journalists and their bosses too vulnerable to resist.
Another non-profit organization that has taken serious note of the press intimidation in Pakistan is the Committee to Protect Journalists. It has documented how journalists who wrote critical pieces about the military or judiciary were harassed, abducted or attacked.
Human rights groups in Pakistan have been more perturbed by the judiciary’s indifference towards the media being muzzled. The Committee to Protect Journalists quoted Zohra Yusuf of the Human Rights Commission saying: “When it comes to the military and the judiciary, Pakistan’s journalists are between a rock and a hard place.” She said that “in recent months the judiciary, which has a history of siding with Pakistan’s powerful military, has remained largely silent amid attempts to censor or silence the press.”
While the Pakistan Army coerced local English and Urdu media outlets to submit to Imran Khan, scores of media people were harassed. The popular news channel Geo TV, part of the Jang group, went off the air for two weeks in an apparent protest against interference, only to re-emerge with a promise to self-censor.
Social media outlets also hounded
It was not only the mainstream media – social media platforms were also hounded by the army, while pro-democracy activists and bloggers were abducted.
The Human Rights Commission also noted the increase in official advice or warnings to social media users, particularly those critical of state policies.
Its report said: “Any criticism of the policies of the military or discussion about extremist violence attracts the most press advice. Respondents testified to receiving advice from the Inter-Services Public Relations and from civil agencies such as the Federal Investigation Agency, which, they allege, has begun to call social-media users for ‘hearings’ related to their online activity, albeit with no supporting official orders. It is not uncommon to receive direct requests to delete specific tweets and, in one respondent’s case, to be asked to report ‘objectionable’ tweets.”
A Pakistani-American columnist who analyzed the effect of this media muzzling, suggested that the Pakistani media was coerced into self-censorship and a large section of the print and electronic media ended up heaping high praise on the army and its blue-eyed boy Imran Khan.
However, not all Pakistani media outlets were fearful. A few papers like The News, put out by the Jang group, published critiques of the election process. It questioned the credibility of the electoral conduct: “Predictions that the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf would be the largest party and there would be a hung parliament have largely proven correct… The one question hanging over the elections is whether they were conducted fairly”.
The News was censored and pressured not to carry such pieces. It was also told not to publish two popular columnists — Babar Sattar and Mosharaf Zaidi — as they had written about a protest movement led by thousands of ethnic Pashtuns from tribal areas against military operations.
Media intimidation nothing new
If we trace the evolution and operation of the press in the context of growing political instability in Pakistan, the current media muzzling is nothing new for the country.
Over the past year, media critics of the military have found themselves abducted, taken off air and threatened. But now the Pakistan Army seems more cautious about what is being published or aired. What remains to be seen is how the fourth pillar of democracy will function in the ‘new Pakistan’ of Imran Khan.
Analysts and close observers of the Pakistani media had believed that the country was on a path, albeit slow and bumpy, towards greater press freedom. But with the ratcheting up of pressure on media owners and selective attacks on journalists, people are uncertain what the future holds.
One can only wait and see how the media will fare under the new government led by a cricket-hero-turned-politician now seen as the army’s preferred choice.
I have no love lost for Trump. However, one thing that he has done right is to expose the MSM for its being fake.
Kudos to Pak Army to have done the same in Pakistan. The Media is irresponsible and must be curbed.
"New" Pakistan must be a responsible ome, and it starts with the Media. Gag the fake news.
Seems like the Chinese model is being put in place to gag the media…
I hope you are right. Who wants the Indian model that has created 200 million "middle class" aping the West, milking 1000 million destitute.
Pakistan can solve its problems overnight.
All she has to do is to buy a Westerner for what he is really worth, and then sell him for what he thinks he is worth.
@ghulam rasul lol u said:
pro-democracy activists were all pressured and intimidated before the election. Why don’t u say thieves & looters were prosecuted? U were happy with the mafia & all criminals imposed on us through a rigged system. It means u we’re a part of them because with the help of corrupt people like u they we’re imposed on us. U were their tool
No one helped imran Khan win election except the people. Don’t spread misinformation lol
You are in the wrong profession Mr Dehlvi, better stick to your family profession of writing Urdu poetry and Bollywood songs.
Rohit Pandeya Indian media is total trash. Have you seen Indian news? Shit it’s just as bad as Pakistani garbage media. i don’t understand what this writer is trying to point out the clear as day narrative that garbage media is controlled by the state in pretty much all the countries of the world?……..no shit, so what’s new?
1. There was ISI interference in the elections
2. The opposition was hounded
3. The idiotic Pak voter was bought or goaded
4. Mr. IK was eased in
5. There was electoral fraud
6. The boxes were stuffed with fake ballots
I say, so what. Too bad it was not done 10 years ago. Whatsmore, who needs elections. What have they done for America, or India? Let us get rid of them altogether.
Was our Prophet elected? How many votes did he get? Did he have a majority? Are elections Islamic?
If you like democracy, go back to Delhi sir, and enjoy their circus. You are in the wrong country. I remember Iran’s Ahmedinejad tell on tv "We did not make the revolution to have democracy".
Could we request Pandeya Sahib to get Mr. Dehlavi Indian citizenship? He is their type. He can join the "middle class" and milk the poor.
I sincerely hope that these are the last election Pakistan ever has. What a waste of time and money.
Syed sahb…..I’m baffled at all these Indians, just incensed with anything to do with Pakistan. How many of us here comment on Indian issues?…..lol…..None!
We have no comment about India issues or dramay. Not interested, however these guys live and breathe Pakistan….. Lol……how bizarre!
Couldn’t have said it better myself. What nonsense we as Pakistani try to ape the west…..just nonsense!
Ahson Aftab You are highly mistaken. Indians just do not think about Pakistan.
As such, what is there to talk about it other than daily wanton killings. Where Shias get bombed out by Sunnis in mosques. Where minorities are maimed and killed under garb of blasphemy. Where Hazras , Ahmedayias are not considered fit enough to stay in your naPak nation.
Indians give a damn all consideration to a nation which is surviving on doles from foreigners. First US grants. Now Chinese crumbs. Or a nation whose only worthwhile credential to the world is supporting and producing terrorists .
For us, Pakistan is like a malignant cancer , which we just cannot remove and have to withstand it till such time, it withers itself from being a failed state to a broken nation.
Elections, democracy, freedom of speech , human rights, and now gay rights…. are all tools in the west’s arsenal which are used selectively against dissenting developing countries to make sure they never rise out of their miseries and west’s hegemony is maintained.
I dont follow why Indian newspapers (and that includes this AsiaTimes) is obsessed with any positive developments taking place in Pakistan. This zero-sum mentality needs to end in India. Pakistan military is good, it protects the nation, elections in Pakistan have been a great success no matter how much Indian media tries to show it otherwise. The world is NOT listening to Indian media propoganda. BJP/Hindu nationalists needs to change its strategy in trying to isolate Pakistan and being obsessed about it, this attitude in India needs to end. The sooner India overcomes this mental hurdle the sooner it can start repairing its relationships with ALL its neighbors.
Navneet Bhatnagar Agree completely.
The mystery is why Indians are obsessive about Pakistan? You won’t find Pak’s commenting about the daily human garbage dalit vs brahmund nonsense and rapes and what not. However, You will see Indians compulsively commenting on Pak issues as if their lives depended upon it. lol
Aditya Shetty maybe you need check the amount of aid and loans india recives
Rohit Pandeya A hindu slum kutta will sell his mother and wife for a dollar or two and probably himself for a peons job at google, idiot.
If there is more equitable distribution of wealth in pakistan the IMF loan demanded is a drama. Deenge haakte raho aur humara dil behlate raho
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