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

EU Court Fines Poland for Hosting CIA 'Black Sites'

Ruling is first time a court has acknowledged suspects were held and tortured at the sites, under US program launched following the 9/11 terrorist attacks More

Migrant Issues Close to Home Spur Groups to Take Action

Groups placing water, food in the desert, or aiding detainees after release, have one common goal: no more deaths of migrants crossing illegally into the US More

Video At AIDS Conference, Prevention Pill Stirs Excitement

Truveda shows promise, spurring debate over access and other approaches 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.
Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debatei
X
Shelley Schlender
July 24, 2014 6:43 PM
In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Death Toll From Israel-Gaza Conflict Surpasses 700

Gaza officials say a shelling hit a compound housing a United Nations-run school in the Gaza Strip, killing more than a dozen people, during an Israeli offensive in the area. Heavy fighting between the Israeli military and Hamas militants continued on Thursday, pushing up the death toll. So far, more than 730 Palestinians and 35 Israelis have been killed in the conflict. VOA's Scott Bobb has the latest from Jerusalem.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnels

The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video Researchers Target Low-Cost Avatar Technology

Scientists at the University of Southern California Institute for Creative Technologies say 3-dimensional representations could revolutionize social media. Elizabeth Lee has more from Los Angeles.
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 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.

AppleAndroid