“Something Went Wrong”: The Chilling Effect Of State Terrorism On Journalism

Something went wrong

When Najam Sethi discussed the assassination of Sabeen Mahmud on his show, an interesting thing happened. The audio feed cut in and out during the program. Many viewers ignored the brief periods of silence, chalking it up to technical problems with their sets or with the the transmission. Only later was it realised that the missing audio was probably not an accident.

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Hagiographies: Who are they trying to convince?

Gen Raheel

Taliban released a new biography of Mullah Omar recently amid growing frustration among jihadi militants and the rise of Daesh in the region. The work has been described as a having tone of ‘hagiography’, the word used for writing about the life of a saint. This is widely seen as an attempt to rally support behind the missing Mullah who hasn’t been seen since many years yet still claims to be in command of Taliban forces. Mullah Omar isn’t the only subject of new ‘hagiography’. Increasingly, such works are appearing in Pakistan media detailing another subject: Chief of Army Staff Gen Raheel Sharif.

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The worst of the blasphemy law is yet to come

Anti-Geo TV messages

A blasphemy case has been registered under sections 295, 295C 298C and others against GEO media group owner, Mir Shakilur Rehman, anchor Shaista Lodhi, Veena Malik, Asad Khatak and other people, creating a new state of affairs.

Perhaps this is the first time that such high profile people have been charged under the blasphemy law and these are all very serious charges with the most severe punishment ranging up to the death penalty.

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Defending the National Ideology

Pakistani protestors holding posters of Osama bin Laden

The national ideology is a topic that has been discussed from before independence. Actually, it may be even be discussed more today than it was in the time of Iqbal and Jinnah. Certainly their words continue to be discussed and debated as much if not more today. Most of the discussions of national ideology center on defending the the boundaries of the national ideology of two nation theory, keeping Pakistan from being undermined by Indian hegemony. But while a vigilant watch has been kept on one boundary, another was left unguarded.

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#BanGeo: Bringing Some Balance To The Debate

The national drama around who tried to kill Hamid Mir has divided the nation into two vocal camps: Hypernationalists calling for censorship and punishing anyone who dares to criticise the military and those who are so accustomed to criticising the military that they are defending some of the very same practices that they condemned in the past. Some balance has begun to appear, though, and it is worth promoting these perspectives as part of an effort to find a solution based in reason and not emotion.

First let us address the issue of whether ISI was responsible for the attack. Geo’s airing of this claim was sensationalistic, and the airing of a photo of DG ISI during the reporting was the equivalent of media ‘trolling’. It was designed to create a strong reaction. The problem with responding to trolls, though, is that strong reactions usually backfire, making you look as bad as the troll. The Army would be wise not to fall into this trap.

The Army is understandably unhappy about some of the way the attack against Hamid Mir was reported, but accusing Jang Group of being anti-military is hard to believe when this is the same group that publishes the opinions of columnists like Shireen Mazari, Ahmed Quraishi, and Maleeha Lodhi.

Not only Army, but other media houses should avoid the temptation to engage in opportunistic attempts to benefit from Geo’s troubles. Express’s claim that Jang is ‘running a malicious slander campaign against Pakistan’s premier intelligence agency and its chief’ is itself a malicious slander campaign that is both unnecessary and unhelpful to Express’s own image problems. And all media groups should be careful about participating in a setting a precedent for censorship. Today it may be #BanGeo…but tomorrow it could just as easily be #BanExpress…

It should also be noted that the #BanGeo campaign is not a response to the recent controversy, but has been going on since years before the present situation. Here is a a Facebook page created four years ago that parrots the same talking points.

bangeo

Maybe the question should be asked more prominently whose interests are served by this campaign that has been going on for years?

As accusations are thrown and parties try to benefit from the chaos, it should be remembered that when mud is thrown, even the thrower himself ends up dirty. Finally, all sides should take a moment to reflect on the excellent editorial from The Nation today:

If we leave journalism and its ethics to the journalists, and criminal investigations to the police and related authorities, and both do their jobs — we should be fine. At the moment, this is not the case.