Monday, 5 November 2007

Gagging the Media

Here is the complete text of the ordinance on the electronic media. It seems to concern electronic broadcasting only so the print media is safe for now.

(Edit: No, it seems as if I was wrong. Restrictions have been placed on the print media as well. I'll try and find a link to the specific ordinance.)

These provisions are the kickers:

(k) ensure that no anchor person, moderator or host propagates any opinion or acts in any manner prejudicial to the ideology of Pakistan or sovereignty, integrity or security of Pakistan.

(l) not broadcast any programme inciting violence or hatred or any action prejudicial to maintenance of law and order;

(m) not broadcast anything which defames or brings into ridicule the Head of State, or members of the armed forces, or executive, legislative or judicial organs of the state;

and just to make sure that all bases are covered:

(o) not broadcast anything which is known to be false or baseless or is malafide or for which there exist sufficient reasons to believe that the same may be false, baseless or malafide.”

In other words, anything the government decides it doesn't like can be met with prison terms and massive fines. It is ridiculous in its draconian measures.

I was conversing with a gentleman yesterday who was strongly supportive of the restrictions. Making references to the television media showing the bodies of dead soldiers, showing captured soldiers, and interviewing militants, he spoke at length about the media's sensationalism and voyeurism, and then went on about how in the United States, the media exercises self-censorship by not showing bodies or coffins, or pictures of soldiers who have been captured, and refuse to give any voice to any of the militants they are waging their war of terror upon. Contrasting the Pakistani and US media, he went to say that in Pakistan, the government should impose restrictions because the Pakistani media is not responsible enough to exercise self-censorship.

To this line of argument, my immediate response is: has the American media model served America well? If you are a conspiracy theorist who believes that in the last five or six years, world events have unfolded according to a American master plan of domination - that the civil war in Iraq was planned from the start and that the American government and military are all sitting around patting themselves on the back due to their successful domination of the world etc. then perhaps you might feel that the American media model must be forcibly emulated in Pakistan. To believe this, one suspects, you would either have to be a member of Bush's public relations staff, or a complete buffoon. (The two categories not being necessarily exclusive).

Has the American media served the American people well by exercising self-censorship and allowing itself to be used by the government as a tool? Most assuredly not. It served the interests of a small clique in the ruling class, allowing them to launch a war which has been disastrous for America in terms of wasted lives, a suffering economy and growing anti-Americanism around the world. It may have been financial profitable for Bush and his immediate circle - but they are not, in of themselves, America.

So in Pakistan, a gagged media will serve the interests of a small clique of rulers and their immediate circles. But will it serve the interests of the people? No.

Edit: Some more thoughts, considerations and qualifications on this topic here.

1 comment:

kokismith said...

Quick comment: The US military has not allowed coffins coming back from Iraq to be photographed or any such photos to be released to the media. It wasn't self-censorship on the part of the US media. They just weren't getting the pictures. That is, until some guy used a freedom of information law to ask for those pictures, and on a separate occasion, a cargo worker photographed some coffins published the photo in the Seattle TImes. The DoD banned any further release of such photos through the freedom of information law and the cargo worker who originally took a coffin picture got fired. See

What this gentleman was telling you is self-censorship was actually the withholding of information by the American government. I don't know the latest status of such bans on photos.