News / Asia

Pakistan's Courts Push to Limit Media Criticism

Pakistani journalists protest the killing of journalist Saleem Shahzad, Hyderabad, Pakistan, June 1, 2011.
Pakistani journalists protest the killing of journalist Saleem Shahzad, Hyderabad, Pakistan, June 1, 2011.
Sharon Behn
— This week, Human Rights Watch criticized Pakistan's judiciary for using legal powers to try to silence critics in the media. Journalists, long under pressure from militants and the country's powerful army, are trying to deal with new attempts to curtail their reporting.
 
At first, Pakistan's major television stations did not pay much attention to the order from the broadcasting regulatory body, PEMRA, that criticism of the country's increasingly powerful judiciary should stop.
 
The popular talk shows continued. But then, news editors said, PEMRA started issuing warnings to individual shows, reminding them that criticism of the judiciary was considered illegal.
 
Human Rights Watch Asia Director Brad Adams said this week that these curbs on free expression in Pakistan should be immediately revoked and that judges should not have "special immunity from criticism."

Both sides to blame
 
Tariq Mahmood, a lawyer and former president of the Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan, agreed that the judiciary may have overused its legal powers, but blamed reporters for inappropriate reporting.
 
"This contempt of court law has been there in the constitution primarily to discourage attempts to personally malign judges," he said. "But I admit this law has been excessively used by the judiciary in recent months, and because of that, it has lost its effectiveness. But let me tell you that some media outlets, particularly TV channels, have overstepped their limits, and that has provoked the courts to repeatedly use this law."
 
But Bob Dietz, Asia Program Coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists, said while Pakistan journalism is far from a perfect institution, journalists in Pakistan do not deserve the amount of pressure they are coming under.
 
"The fact that they keep on doing their jobs in the face of such animosity and so much danger to me is always incredible," he said.
 
Pakistan has some two dozen news channels, and news-based talk shows are very popular, dominating the airwaves during prime time evening hours. There is also plenty of political satire, such as the Banana News Network, which makes fun of both reporters and politicians.

Limits and self-censorship
 
But the mockery stops there. Mubashir Zaidi, an editor for Dawn TV, one of the biggest TV channels in Pakistan, said news channels know there are limits.
 
"They know there are red lines that you don't cross, you don't mock judges, you don't mock the military and you don't mock Taliban," said Zaidi

Dietz agreed there is self-censorship in Pakistan. And he noted that, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, Pakistan last year was the world's deadliest nation for reporters. The organization said at least 29 journalists have been killed in Pakistan in direct relation to their work since 2007.

Zaidi said although the media is in trouble in Pakistan, coming under pressure from the Taliban, from the military in insurgent areas, and now from the judiciary, it is not about to stop doing its work.
 
"Pakistan has been the most dangerous country for journalists, so what to do here? But we have to survive, we have to report, as media is the flag bearer of rights in Pakistan,"   he said.

The dangers facing journalists in Pakistan were illustrated once again this week, when top TV talk-show anchor Hamid Mir found a Taliban-planted bomb under his car, apparently for his reporting on teenage activist Malala Yousafzai.
 
Yousafzai was shot by the Taliban for what it described as her pro-Western ideology.

You May Like

As AIDS Epidemic Matures, Workplaces Adapt

Issue of AIDS in workplace is one of many social issues being discussed at the 20th International Aids Conference in Australia More

Is Air Travel Safe?

Aviation expert says despite tragic losses of Malaysian Airlines flights 370 and 17, industry experienced lowest fatality rate in recorded history last year More

100 Days Later, Nigerian Girls Still Held

Activists holding rallies in Nigeria and several other countries to mark 100th day of captivity for more than 200 schoolgirls being held by Boko Haram More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Tim Riches from: Mississauga, Ontario
November 28, 2012 2:50 PM
Criticism is the only known antidote to error. Indeed, it is all that has ever worked.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Formi
X
July 22, 2014 10:26 AM
Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.

AppleAndroid