|Why another crackdown on media is round the corner|
By Ansar AbbasiISLAMABAD: Yet again, the media in Pakistan is under serious threat. Alarm bells have already started ringing. Naked warnings are being overtly given. Lists of “troublemakers” in the media are being compiled and the NRO-laundered intelligence sleuths are being assigned to straighten out the “crooked” pen pushers.
Some media houses have been pinpointed for “conspiring” against the elected government (read presidency if you like) and are being warned to get ready for another round of beating. The stage is being set to teach the unrepentant media a lesson.
The assault could be subtle. It could be uncouth and blatant. It could be direct. It could be vicious. Some fear, perhaps it has already been conceptualised and may be launched within days, if not already put into action.
The journalists smell a rat when they talk with government leaders, but they have not panicked. They are rather relaxed and prepared for the fight to defend the freedom of the press as guaranteed by the Constitution.
It might be new for the present day masters of our destiny to flex their newly acquired state muscles to tame the media but those associated with this profession are used to it. From the days of the draconian press laws introduced by the first military dictator of Pakistan General Ayub Khan to the era of public whipping of journalists during Zia’s Martial Law and then to the post Nov 3, 2007 media-specific black days of General Musharraf’s military rule, not to mention the wrongs done to the country’s press during the democratic governments of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, the losers have always been those trying to strangulate the media.
But the rulers perhaps are not in the habit of learning lessons from other people’s experiences. At least, it seems so from what is being contemplated now to gag the media, whose major crime today is that it reminds the leaders of their actions and promises of the past.
A lunch hosted by a PML-Q lady MNA at her Margalla Road house on Friday served as an opportunity for a selected gathering of “notorious” journalists to share their views on the looming threats to the media.
The host of Aaj TV’s popular programme ‘Bolta Pakistan’ and senior journalist Nusrat Javeed believes that the crackdown on media is just round the corner. It might strike us in just a few days. He was of the view that a ‘financial emergency’ was likely to be imposed to attain the objectives of the vested interests.
Hamid Mir, the host of Geo TV’s CapitalTalk and a senior columnist, was certain that the D-day was just 10 days away. He said that the list of five marked journalists had swelled to 17 and possibly included the names of most of those invited to the lunch.
According to Hamid Mir’s assessment, amongst the media houses, Geo News, The News and Aaj Television were said to be the first in the firing line. † Our Group Editor Shaheen Sehbai perhaps had some clear picture of what was simmering against the media but for being a man of few words he kept his secrets to himself.
Syed Talat Hussain shared his latest confrontation with some presidency-backed local businessman, who told him that the media was responsible for all the present ills of Pakistan. The man had reportedly celebrated the March 9, 2007 removal of Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry because the latter had ruined his golf dreams. It had all happened because of the media, so for the likes of this man media is undoubtedly the villain and, therefore, should be cursed.
Kashif Abbasi of the ARY TV was sharing with this scribe the kind of pressures he was presently facing. Geo TV’s Dr Shahid Masood from Dubai explained as to why he focused on Rehman Malik in his popular programme ‘Meray Mutabiq’ on Saturday night. Dr Shahid said that during his last visit to Islamabad, he got a plain warning from Rehman Malik in the presence of Asif Ali Zardari.
“The situation is really scary,” he said, adding that Rehman Malik talked of his “punches” to respond to the “punches” of the media. Malik, he said, introduced himself as the establishment and the master of all the intelligence agencies. “Honestly, it was shocking for me,” Dr Shahid said, adding that Benazir Bhutto had done a lot to support the cause of the independent media, particularly after Nov 3, 2007 but things had now changed altogether.
Media is today the only pillar of the state that is still standing but under a serious threat. The other key pillar, the judiciary, was made to collapse on Nov 3, 2007 when General Musharraf carried out his coup against the institution. The new parliament is already is shambles and lacks confidence. The Executive is simply nowhere and is hostage to the status quo of the remnants of the past military regime.
May one ask the champions of democracy and the masters of our destiny on what grounds and basis do they intend to run the state. Can the state survive without these pillars? Have our leaders developed some innovative vision, alien to the world’s experiences, to run the country? Are we going to prove to the world that we actually are a banana republic? Enjoy your bananas.