Pakistani journalists and media persons are protesting against the violation of freedom of expression in the country. The country’s biggest media house, Geo, was recently banned and was allowed back on TV channel on condition that it did not do stories on the Supreme Court’s intervention in politics, innocence of ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, against the establishment (military) and about the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement.
These interventions are being seen in the light of the general election due within months. It points towards the possibility that the military is trying to prevent Nawaz Sharifâ€™s PML-N (Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz) party from retaining its parliamentary majority. Sharif’s party’s pro democracy stance has been a problem for the military for long.
Articles that were taken down after publication include Babar Sattarâ€™s oped that was regarding the Pashtun peace movement and extending solidarity with Geo and academic Amar Ali who was fired from Punjab University, reportedly for providing ‘unnecessary encouragement’ to students due to which they are becoming ‘needlessly vocal’.
Some articles that were not published include Mobashir Zaidiâ€™s oped in The News and Gul Bukhariâ€™s article that The Nation did not run. Bukhari’s article was about Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM).
Pashtuns, also called Pathans are an ethnic minority group in Pakistan and Afghanistan. This community has been facing violence from the part of military and the Taliban militant group and have not been able to live in their home in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas because of the landmines planted there. The community is under constant threat, are discriminated against and face violence from the state on a regular basis.
PTM is a mobilization of Pashtuns that happened in the past months, which saw the community demand basic rights including protection from extrajudicial killings that violated their right to live without fear.
The letter signed by more than a hundred media persons express their ‘serious concern’ and ‘condemn the ongoing curbs on freedom of expression in Pakistan.’
‘Beginning with a crackdown against select media groups and banning the broadcast of various channels, there now is enhanced pressure on all media houses to refrain from covering certain rights based movements,’ the letter said. Earlier, prominent academic including Noam Chomsky had signed a statement condemning the censorship on academic programmes in Pakistan’s Universities.