Like everything else in Naya Pakistan, even the censorship on press and lack of media freedom are worse than in Purana Pakistan. Amnesty International, Committee to Protect Journalists, Reporters Sans Frontiers and International Press Institute have all brought out reports on censorship, threats to press freedom and violence against journalists. On October 9, the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) has announced a Protest Day against the widespread censorship of the electronic and print media in the country.
According to an Editorial in The Friday Times ‘Truth will out’ at the core of today’s Pakistani media lies a tussle between “old media and a new media. The old media is represented by a dying breed of owner editors who still cling to traditional notions of editorial independence, and a pack of journalists who continue speaking truth to power. The new media is represented by a rising galaxy of channel owners, anchors, hosts and reporters with political and economic interests to leverage unconscionably. In other words, “press freedom” means two opposite things to each group of stakeholders.”
According to TFT, “In the old days, the print media could be cautioned and even silenced by a combination of bribes (government advertising) and coercion (Press and Publications Ordinance). But the stranglehold of the press laws ended in the 1990s following the revival of “electoral democracy” led by the two mainstream political parties (PPP and PMLN). A period of “enlightened moderation” by the civilianized military regime of General Pervez Musharraf – that had outlawed both the parties and needed media support for its own legitimacy – followed in the 2000s when permissions were freely granted to businessmen to set up TV channels and radio stations across the country. Before long, there was an explosion of “freedom”, with no-holds barred political talk shows, commentaries and sit-coms becoming the norm for popular entertainment.”
However, “downside to this media revolution is more significant. Fat cats from the industrial and commercial sector seized the commanding heights of the electronic media and marginalized the old band of print editor-owners who had risen by the bootstraps and not ventured forth into other businesses. These new entrants from the manufacturing, construction and service sectors were primarily motivated by one ruthless objective: to protect and enhance their business interests by leveraging their new media power with the civil-military establishment.”
And, social media “has degenerated rapidly into a big Anti-Social Media platform trolled by organized political interests. The PTI’s youth brigades were organized by slick IT professionals who were paid to milk this platform by setting up hundreds of fake Twitter accounts that could generate furious “made to order trends” to browbeat and drown out critical voices. Before long, the Miltablishment got into the act too and terms of endearment like “traitors”, “Raw/CIA Agents” began to compete with the shrill abuse of the PTI trolls.”