Media is Imperiled in Naya Pakistan

In Naya Pakistan, the deep state appears bent upon destroying every institution that attempts to stand up to the state.

In a recent piece, Abbas Nasir, former Editor of Dawn, referred to this as akin to a “scorched earthy policy” because “In the Pakistani authorities’ lexicon, it seems that anyone who disagrees with the state-sponsored narrative is likened to an invading force, serving hostile foreign interests. With ideas being the only weapon in their arsenal, the dissidents need a vehicle to air their views and share their ideas. It appears that the civilian government in power and its powerful backers in the security establishment are now ensuring that those who disagree are denied a platform.”

According to Nasir, like Putin’s Russia, Pakistani journalists “are constantly told not just by officials but also their surrogates in their ‘think tanks’ how to report ‘positively’. Of course, such enforced ‘positivity’ leaves no room for you and I to truly believe that something may actually be against the national interest and vocally oppose it because our conscience so dictates. Your definition of national interest and mine amounts to nought. Just flip TV channels to assess what range of opinions and ideas are being discussed each evening, across dozens of channels and you will soon be able to see that the tightly set parameters start to rise out of the discussions like a concrete boundary wall. No transgressions are possible.”

Further, “One could argue that sections of the media, being heavily reliant on government advertising, are responsible somewhat for this state of affairs. But then, the alleged interference of security services in the distribution of TV channels on cable and newspapers through hawkers have also curtailed their reach and affected the commercial advertising market. Coupled with a dip in economic growth, this has led to a dire crisis in many independent media houses with some 1,000 workers, including journalists, losing their jobs since the PTI came to power; a TV channel and some newspapers have shut down, others are facing closure and brutal cost-cutting is taking place across the industry.

Finally, “official unhappiness with dissent anywhere including social media is evident in the extraordinarily large number of requests being made, for example, to Twitter, to close down accounts because the holders are ‘in violation of Pakistani laws, rules and regulations’. A close examination of the content, the tweets, of many of these accounts makes it abundantly clear that they are not espousing intolerance, hatred or violence but merely expressing concern at what they see as a violation of the constitutional provisions and calling for civilian supremacy. It is an irony then that calls for adherence to the letter and spirit of the Constitution, upholding civilian supremacy and free speech, can be deemed a violation of Pakistani law. Such are the times we have fallen on.”

Nasir ends by stating: “Open debate has better chances of leading to formulation of policies with a genuine buy-in across the length and breadth of the country. To me, that would be far more preferable and lasting than any contrived, enforced positive outlook that fumbles and fails at the first reality check.”

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