Pakistan Govt. Policy is to Batter the media into submission

The recent decision by the Imran Khan cabinet to set up ‘‘media courts’’ is being viewed as another mechanism to beat or batter the media into submission. As an editorial in Dawn stated “An extraordinarily unwise and provocative idea, rather than having been discarded after due reflection, is instead being embraced by the PTI government.”

In a scathing column, former editor of Dawn, Abbas Nasir wrote that the PTI government seeks to “further tighten the noose around the media where there was no slack in the first place. It is not as if the laws of the land do not exist, covering defamation and every other crime the media, or some black sheep who happens to be part of it, can possibly commit as should be the case. The media or any other pillar of the state ought not to have carte blanche. In addition to these laws, enforceable in the courts, the PTI government, and more so its backers, had already brought the media to its knees, particularly the bulk of the ‘free electronic media’. For evidence, one needed only to surf channels.”

Nasir asks: “What is the government fearing from the media that it feels it must acquire the legal capacity to take cases against it to special tribunals? It was a different story until Nawaz Sharif’s falling out in 2016 with the establishment over his suggestion that Pakistan was facing international isolation and it would be in the national interest to clamp down on militant groups of different hues that the state had allegedly patronised or used to pursue its goals.”

Finally Nasir states, “what is the government fearing from the media that it feels the need to acquire the legal capacity to take cases against the fourth estate to special tribunals and seek a verdict within 90 days? Is it this that is triggering knee-jerk reactions such as proposing, with an aim to pushing through parliament, legislation that will facilitate special media tribunals and speedy trials of journalists/organisations that cross the line in the government’s view? If you were part of the PTI set-up and you suddenly saw these uber-nationalist media men and women suddenly changing their tune en masse and start attacking you when your performance is no more abysmal than it has always been, what would you read into it? If you interpreted this as a significant element of the establishment having second thoughts about Project New Pakistan would it make you nervous? It probably would. The question is whether this is actually the case, isn’t it?”

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