NOTE: Please keep in mind while reading the text below that the launching ceremony of the DAWN NEWS TV channel was inaugurated by Military Dictator General Pervez Musharraf. The same Daily Dawn in September, 2000 and in 2001 raised hell against General Pervez Musharraf's Martial Law Regime. [Read More in the text below]
* November 16, 2001
Army officer in Islamabad assaulted Dawn reporter Faraz Hashmi after their cars bumped on the road. The police refused to register a case on Hashmi's request and the attack, which left him injured, came just days after he put an uncomfortable question to President Pervez Musharraf in a press conference, which visibly infuriated the president.
Daily Dawn was allegedly founded by the Founder of Pakistan Muhammad Ali Jinnah. The CEO of Dawn group is Hameed Haroon, and the current editor of Dawn is Abbas Nasir, who is also looking after the Dawn News Channel [supposed to be a full time job], and how the hell it would be possible to look after two organizations at the same time!!
Hameed Haroon is Chief Executive Officer of The Dawn Media Group (DMG), Pakistan’s leading media conglomerate. The Group comprises Pakistan Herald Publications (Pvt.) Limited, the printers and publishers of DAWN newspaper and three leading magazines, Herald (current affairs) Spider (Information Technology) and Aurora (marketing and advertising); DawnNews Pakistan’s first and to-date only English language news channel; City FM89 radio and DAWN.COM-arguably Pakistan’s most visited news web portal. [Couurtesy: Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hameed_Haroon]
As per latest news update dated 25 May 2007 [AAJ NEWS 2100 HOURS].
Pakistan's Military Dictator General Pervez Musharraf [1999 - 2008]
On 25 May 2007 the DAWN NEWS CHANNEL's test transmission was commenced and guess what the opening ceremony was addressed by Generalissimo Generalissimus Il President Mr Parvez Musharraf. Whereas the so-called Beacon of the Press Freedom i.e. Pakistan Herald Publication Limited or to be precise Daily Dawn [DATED 25 MAY 2007] says:
"“In our endeavour to establish DawnNews we are enormously helped by our legacy – The legacy of DAWN, that was founded by the Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah on 14th August 1947 in Karachi, the same day our nation was born. We believe that by facilitating access to information of the highest quality and with a defined commitment to clarity and accuracy, we can enable Pakistan’s young generations to assume their place as informed citizens of the world.”
But Jinnah had never dreamt of Controlled and Guided Democracy by Military Dictator as well as he never dreamt of that a Military Dictator would be addressing a forum founded by a Lawyer of Impeccable Character i.e. Mohammad Ali Jinnah
The tragedy of English Speaking Pakistani Elite Class can only be defined as:
If you lost money then nothing is lost,
If you lost health then something is lost,
If you lost character then you lost everything and nothing is left.
The most amazing thing is this that after all these years of boastful claims of Freedom of Press and leaseholding of Basic Human Rights, on 27 March, 2009, Mr Hameed Haroon at the behest of Editor Dawn Mr Abbas Nasir and Part TIME EXECUTIVE RATHER Hatchet Man of DAWN NEWS CHANNEL, sacked more than 70 employees in the name of reorganizing [Read Retrenchments and Iron Kick] the Dawn News Channel and this step is itself tantamount to Financial Murder and this is the step for which Hameed Haroon and Pseudo Leftists of Saadat-e-Amroha in Dawn Editorial Board hounded the several Civilian Government of 90s. Following is the list and names of Working Journalists/Technicians who have been summarily dismissed:
Another lame plea of Dawn Group Management is this that Dawn News Channel has nothing to do with Daily Dawn newspaper! I wonder what the hell Mr Abbas Nasir [Editor Dawn] is doing in Dawn News Channel and why the hell both the orgainzations share the same website?
Newspaper's office raided to check use of electricity
Pakistan Press Freedom Report 2000 by Owais Aslam Ali
In September 27, a team consisting of six fully armed army personnel, three engineers of the Karachi Electric Supply Corporation (KESC) and a representative of the Electrical Inspector, Government of Sindh, came without prior notice, to the headquarters of the Pakistan Herald Publications, publishers of the Dawn Group of Newspapers, and insisted on an immediate inspection and testing of all the existing electric installations.
A spokesperson for the newspaper group said "The highhanded manner in which the inspection by the army monitoring team was carried out left an indelible impression that a punitive raid rather than an electrical inspection was the basic objective of the operation."
The management of the newspaper group protested at the strong arm tactics by the inspection team who threatened the newspaper management with the immediate disconnection of the electric supply to the press and the consequential stoppage of all newspaper printing and publishing activities, if immediate access was not allowed.
The army inspection team refused to allow its military personnel to follow security identification procedures which have been enforced in Dawn's headquarters since the bomb blasts over a year ago, when journalists and press workers' lives had been threatened by as yet unidentified terrorist groups.
According to the newspaper spokesperson, the military officer in charge, against taking of photographs of the inspection, stated, "This was a secret operation ordered by the higher ups and that no photographs were to be published."
The spokesperson added," Of late, the present administration has become increasingly hostile towards any criticism." " In particular, the government has strongly protested with respect to the writings of a senior Dawn journalist who had earlier commented in a dispatch from New York that the administration of Chief Executive Musharraf was preparing to initiate a new round of repressive measures against the free press. Recent legal notices sent to Dawn by the regime's Minister of Information and a senior official of the Ministry of Information in Islamabad, not to mention the watering down of a proposed Freedom of Information Act draft, have served as major indicators of a new press strategy being pursued by the present administration. The independent policies followed by Dawn and its sister publications may well prove to be the first target of such repressive measures." the spokesperson said.
The press freedom in Pakistan. The Report below is of the period when there was no emergency and Mr Musharraf was just 2 years old:
PAKISTAN STATE OF MEDIA and PRESS FREEDOM REPORT 2001-2002
"Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes the freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers." Universal Declaration of human rights, 1948
"Every citizen shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression, and there shall be freedom of the press, subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interest of the glory of Islam or the integrity, security or defence of Pakistan or any part thereof, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality, or in relation to contempt of court or commission of or incitement to an offence." Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973
World Press Freedom Day
World Press Freedom Day exists to recognise the sacrifices made in the struggle for freedom of the press and to put pressure on governments that continue to deny their citizens this basic human right. The 3 May message is that journalists everywhere must be granted the right to report freely and without fear. The date marks the anniversary of the Declaration of Windhoek, a statement of principles drawn up by journalists in 1991 calling for a free, independent and pluralistic media throughout the world. The declaration affirms that a free press is essential to the existence of democracy and a fundamental human goal. At a time when human rights and democratic development hang in the balance in so many countries, no one can be complacent. 3 May is the day on which the media can remind governments and the citizens of the importance of freedom of the press and of how the global battle to attain it, continues. In Pakistan on this day, each year since 1995, Green Press Pakistan brings out an annual State of the Media and Press Freedom report, an independent and informative document analyzing the state of media freedoms in the country in the past year as well as chronicling violations.
May 3 is observed every year as the World Press Freedom Day. On this day, each year, Green Press brings out an annual State of the Media in Pakistan report, an independent and informative document analyzing the state of media freedoms in the country as well as chronicling violations. We are particularly pleased at bringing out our most comprehensive annual document yet, which also covers the media scene in Afghanistan in some detail and gives a broad view of where the media is headed in that unfortunate country.
We have chronicled the events that have impacted on the freedom of expression over the past year in Pakistan - and in Afghanistan - and noted the highs and lows of the past year and find that it has been a mixed bag for both countries. While there have been some reason to cheer, the certainty of things moving in the right direction is somewhat suspect as our detailed reviews show. Freedom of expression in Pakistan is not as permanent as the government would have us believe. If anything, the period that this report covers highlights both its growing importance as it does the growing impatience of the government of the time with the press.
Three major instances this past year serve to highlight how it is becoming increasingly difficult and dangerous to function as an independent journalist in Pakistan. The first was the diabolical murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, the second the shock resignation of Shaheen Sehbai, the editor of The News, in controversial circumstances and the third, a brute use of force on a large group of journalists in Faisalabad, egged on by one of the most powerful officials of the country. This report does not focus on the press medium alone. We have reviewed the state of the electronic media also and the challenges facing both the public and the private sectors in coming to grips with it as well as the ethics that govern Pakistani airwaves and how relevant they are.
World Press Freedom Day serves as a juncture to remind that freedom of expression is something that can't be taken for granted. Like all other freedoms, it has to be jealously guarded as it is closely wedded to the concept of democracy itself. With Pakistan under a military government that claims it is moving towards "real democracy," it is all the more imperative to monitor the state of the media – a surefire indicator of how democratic the country really is and what exactly is the measure of the government's tolerance of free expression.
We at the Green Press have attempted to do just that and hope you are all the richer for it. We would also like to extend our special thanks to Friedrich Naumann Stiftung, Pakistan for facilitating publication of this report. Also special thanks to Consumers Rights Commission of Pakistan for input regarding Freedom of Information Campaign.
New Press Laws: A Liberal Way of Being Conservative?
The Pervez Musharraf government has been busy honing two new laws aimed at regulating the freedom of the press. Indications are that the laws will be promulgated soon. While the government insists the new laws are meant to ensure media independence, working journalists are wary, saying they will only serve to create and consolidate a nexus between the government and the media owners.
Ministry of Information says the laws have been drafted after holding detailed discussions with the All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS) and the Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors (CPNE) – both representing interests of the owners of the media - and incorporating their recommendations.
However, the All Pakistan Newspaper Employees Council (APNEC) and the All Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) - both representing the interests of the working journalists - have rejected the laws, saying they fail to safeguard their rights.
The Press Council of Pakistan Ordinance-2002
The Ministry of Information says this law will incorporate an Ethical Code of Practice to promote
healthy and responsible trends in journalism and will give legal cover to the constitution of a Press Council aimed at safeguarding freedom of the press and will set up an inquiry commission to take up public complaints against newspapers or journalists that violate the Code. It is proposed that the Council comprise 17 members, with the chairman nominated by the president, who will either be a retired judge of a high court or be eligible of becoming a judge of the Supreme Court of Pakistan.
The Council would include four members each from APNS and CPNE. Two will represent the organizations of working journalists but they must neither be office-bearers of these organizations nor take up posts once on the Council. One member each would be nominated by the leader of the house and leader of the opposition in the National Assembly, the National Commission on the Status of Women, the Pakistan Bar Council, the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry and a prominent human rights organization that is at least 10 years old.
All 16 members of the Council will work voluntarily but will get a fixed stipend to be decided later. The chairman, however, will get a proper salary plus some allowances, also to be determined later.
The Council will be empowered to ensure implementation and or revision of the Ethical Code of Practice for journalists, publishers, editors, news agencies and newspapers. The Council will entertain complaints from any individual or organization and after looking into them, appoint a commission of inquiry to probe the matter at its head office, provincial office or
regional office, where it deems fit.
The Council will be empowered to look into a complaint about alleged interference in the freedom of the press by the government, a political party or any other organization or individual.
The Press, Newspapers and News Agencies Registration Ordinance-2002.
Information ministry officials say this law aims to safeguard the freedom of the press, set professional standards for newspapers and news agencies, and make them accountable with regard to the feelings, fears and issues of the Pakistani society. It purports to help newspapers and news agencies protect their independence and monitor any incidents of use of force in blocking any news item in public interest or instances of intimidation in getting a certain news item published. The law seeks to streamline and soften the procedure of issuing declarations for any new publication. It seeks to introduce a system of checks and balances to rationalize the discretionary powers of the relevant authorities authenticating or canceling the declarations.
Significantly, for the first time in the country, a law will regulate the operations of news agencies. It will seek to address the anomaly that while a newspaper has to go through an elaborate process to secure permission to start publication, practically anyone can start a news agency with a fax and e-mail and service several newspapers without consent.
The implications of the new press laws
How will these two new laws affect the freedom of expression in Pakistan? Until the final drafts are made public, it is at best a guesstimate. On the face of it they seem to reduce official powers to curb the freedom of expression but deftly put the onus of guarding this freedom on the press itself through the proposed Code of Conduct.
As one Ministry of Information official put it: "The new laws quash government powers to ban a publication but provide for measures to ensure that the press follow a stipulated code of ethics and behave responsibly. " The Press, Newspapers and News Agencies Registration Ordinance-2002 will repeal the much-reviled Press and Publication Ordinance-1963 and replace the Registration of Printing Press Ordinance-1988/ 97 that authorized the government to take stringent action against any newspaper.
While the new ordinance reportedly suggests minor penalties to check violations by newspapers, it has no provision that equips the government to ban any publication. The penalties, reportedly, are only of a minor nature and do not condone the traditional coercive tactics to tame the media.
For example, a publication could now be asked to issue a clarification or issued a warning for any alleged irresponsible reporting rather than ordering a closure or canceling of its declaration.
The other new law, the Press Council of Pakistan Ordinance-2002, seems to be an attempt to redress the complaints of newspaper readers against anything published in them. The code of ethics it will encapsulate is sure to make the media more cautious and responsible but without suggesting any punitive action - akin to acting as a "moral check" on the media. Since the harsh fact of the government might in Pakistan is stranger than any fiction that a newspaper can possibly publish, it remains to be seen whether the proposed two new laws will actually protect the freedom of expression or instead be a more liberal way of being conservative.
Electronic Media in Pakistan Gets A Regulator
On March 1, 2002, the government promulgated the much-anticipated Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) Ordinance 2002 to regulate and develop broadcast media in the country. However, by the end of April 2002, the Authority had not issued any licenses to establish private TV channels and was busy formulating its own rules and regulations.
So far three Pakistani owned channels - ARY, Indus Vision and Uni Plus - beam their programmes into Pakistan, all from abroad.
PEMRA aims at improving the standards of information, education and entertainment as well as enlarging the choice available to the people in a variety of programmes.
"Whereas it is expedient to provide for the development of broadcast media in order to enlarge the choice available to the people of Pakistan in the media for news, current affairs, religious knowledge, art, culture, science, technology, economic development, social sector concerns, music, sports, drama and other subjects of public and national interest," the Ordinance says.
The enforcement of PEMRA Ordinance is expected to help facilitate the devolution of responsibility and power to the grassroots by improving people's access to mass media at the local and community levels. The development of broadcast media is also expected to ensure accountability, transparency and good governance by optimizing free flow of information. Under the Ordinance, the government has established an authority to be known as Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority which will be a corporate body, having perpetual succession and a common seal with powers subject to the provision of this Ordinance to hold and dispose of property by the said name, sue, and be sued.
The principal office of the Authority shall be at Islamabad and it may set up offices at such place or places in the country, as it may deem appropriate. The Authority shall be responsible for regulating the establishment and operation for the purpose of international, national, provincial, district, local or special target audiences.
The Authority shall issue licenses for broadcast and CTV stations in the categories including international scale stations; national scale stations; provincial scale stations; local area or community based stations; specific and specialized subject stations; and cable television network stations.
The federal government may, as and when it considers necessary, issue directives to the Authority on matters of policy, and such directives shall be binding on the Authority, and if a question arises whether any matter is a matter of policy or not the decision of the federal government shall be final.
The Authority shall consist of a chairman and nine members to be appointed by the president of Pakistan. The chairman of the Authority shall be an eminent professional of known integrity and competence, having substantial experience in media, business, management, finance, economics or law.
Out of nine members, one shall be appointed by the federal government on full time basis and five shall be eminent citizens chosen to ensure representation of all provinces with expertise in one or more of the following fields: media, law, human rights and social service. Of the five members from the general public, two members shall be women. Secretary Ministry of Information and Media Development, Secretary Interior Division and Chairman Pakistan Telecommunications Authority shall be the ex-officio members. The members, other than ex-officio members, shall participate in all meetings and shall receive such fee and expenses for each meeting as may be prescribed members.
The chairman and members, other than ex-officio members, unless earlier removed for misconduct or physical or mental incapacity, shall hold office for a period of four years and shall be eligible for re-appointment for a similar term or as the federal government may determine.
According to the Ordinance, the Authority (PEMRA), except where applications for issue of licenses relates to the Islamabad Capital Territory, shall invite a representative of the government of the province concerned with regard to the proposed location of the radio station or TV channel or CTV station and shall consider the viewpoint of the concerned provincial government before taking a decision on the issuance, suspension, revocation or cancellation of a license. Where the provincial government objects to the issuance of a particular license or its suspension, revocation or cancellation, the applicant shall be provided an opportunity to be present at the meeting of the Authority and afforded a public hearing with regard to the observations made by the provincial government.
The Authority shall ensure that the consultation with the provincial government or the provincial governments, as the case may be, is conducted with the objective of facilitating freedom of expression on the airwaves within the framework defined by this Ordinance.
The PEMRA shall ensure that no unreasonable delay occurs in the issuance of a license and its utilization by the licensees merely on the grounds that the federal government and the provincial
governments require unspecified time to fulfill their respective and related procedures. The Authority shall take decision on the application for a license within one hundred days from the receipt of the application.
The Ordinance states that no person shall be entitled to the benefit of any monopoly or exclusivity in the matter of broadcasting or the establishment and operation of broadcast or CTV stations or in the supply to or purchase from, a national broadcaster of air time, programmes or advertising material and all existing agreements and contracts to the extent of conferring a monopoly or containing an exclusivity clause are, to the extent of exclusivity, hereby declared to be inoperative and of no legal effect. In granting a license, the Authority shall ensure that, as far as possible, open and fair competition is facilitated: in the operation of more than one channel in any given unity of area or subject.
It will be ensured that undue concentration of media ownership is not created in any city, town or area and the country as a whole by virtue of the applicant for a broadcast or CTV operation license already owning or operating, as sole or joint shareholder of any other broadcast or CTV station, printed newspaper or magazine.
The Authority shall process each application in accordance with the prescribed criteria and shall hold public hearings in the respective provincial capitals of each province, or as the case may be, Islamabad, before granting or refusing the license. A license shall not be granted to a person who is not a citizen of Pakistan or resident in Pakistan; a foreign company organized under the laws of any foreign government; or a company the majority of whose shares are owned or controlled by foreign nationals or companies whose management or control is vested in foreign nationals or companies.
The Authority shall by order, giving reasons in writing for declaring the order prohibit any broadcaster or CTV operator from broadcasting or re-broadcasting or distributing any programme if it is of opinion that such particular programme is likely to create hatred among the people or is prejudicial to the maintenance of law and order or likely to disturb public peace and tranquility or endangers national security.
The provisions of this Ordinance shall have effect notwithstanding anything to the contrary contained in any other law for the time being in force or any contract, agreement or any other instrument whatsoever. The national broadcasters, namely the Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation (PBC) shall continue to be regulated by the Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation Act
1973 (XXXII of 1973) and the Pakistan Television Corporation and Shalimar Recording and Broadcasting Company Limited shall continue to be administered under the provisions of the Companies Ordinance 1984 (XLVII of 1984).
Other existing private broadcasters or CTV operators, who had been granted respective monopolies in multi-modal distribution system, cable TV and in FM radio, shall henceforth be regulated by this Ordinance except in respects where the Authority grants specific exemptions.
The government claims that PEMRA signifies government commitment to freedom of expression and information. According to Information Minister Nisar Memon, PEMRA is an important step in freeing the electronic media in line with the Pervez Musharraf government's commitment to freedom of expression and information. He says that in any civilized society, information has to be shared and in today's world information cannot be held back.
"The present government has taken the vital step as it believes in de-regulation, the power and communication sectors have been deregulated and now the electronic media has too been deregulated. " Memon said PEMRA will be an independent body with majority of its members being representatives of civil society. "It is up to PEMRA now, how its functions, frames its rules and regulations, the body has been put in place to provide an enabling environment for effective de-regulation process."
Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority comprises Chairman Mian Muhammad Javed, members Salim Gul Shaikh, Kairas Kabraji (Sindh Urban), Nigar Ahmad (Punjab), Dr Seemi Naghmana (Balochistan) , Afrasiab Khattak (NWFP), Umar Aziz, Secretary Information Syed Anwar Mehmood, ex-officio member, Secretary Interior, ex-officio member and chairman PTA ex-officio member. In the first meeting Chairman PEMRA Mian Muhammad Javed said that with the establishment of the Authority, a variety of choices would be available with the viewers and listeners besides up-to-date information on events taking place in the world. PEMRA against regulatory regime principles. However many media experts express reservations over PEMRA, claiming it is contrary to the principles of regulatory regime.
* The policy-related provision of PEMRA Ordinance is open to discretionary interpretation as well as legalising government's control over newsworthy contents of electronic media.
* It (the binding instructions) will legalise the government interference in electronic media affairs. It is going to jeopardise the independence of the electronic channels.
* With the powers of federal government to issue policy instructions, PEMRA carries the fundamental risk to unmeet the objectives of establishing an independent regulatory body. The law in its present shape will frustrate the very purpose of creating an independent statuary regulatory body.
* The standard practice in good regulatory regime is that policy guidelines or in certain cases policy directives are specified as in case of PTA (Pakistan Telecommunication Authority) and NEPRA (National Electric Power Regulatory Authority) to ensure transparency and independence of regulatory bodies.
* The objective of setting up a media regulatory body will become irrelevant as the federal government will formalise its leverage of power through PEMRA in matters of media regulatory affairs under the head of policy matters.
* Under the regulatory regime, policy instructions have to be very limited and specific these cannot be binding.
* In Britain, there is an independent body completely beyond the control of the government. It looks after the regulatory affairs of private TV channels and radio stations.
* The promulgated law on the subject provide more than sufficient leverage to PEMRA to restrict "unwanted" material from being broadcast or telecast as it is evident from the provision:
"The Authority shall by order; give reasons in writing for declaring the order to prohibit any broadcaster or CTV (Cable Television) operator from broadcasting or re-broadcasting or distributing any programme if it is of opinion that such particular programme is likely to create hatred among the people or is prejudicial to the maintenance of law and order or likely to disturb public peace and tranquility or endangers national security."
* The independence of private electronic media will be the same as those of PTV and PBC (Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation) if provision of binding policy instructions was not amended in PEMRA.
* The government should have appointed a retired judge of the Supreme Court as chairman of the Authority to handle the affairs of electronic channel with a "better perspective" .
* Given the track record of the successive governments, the binding official policy instructions being unspecified in nature, will give an unlimited leverage to federal government to over-stretch its mandate possibly to pre-empt any issue of genuine public interest from being highlighted in the electronic media, said another expert.
* The federal government at the most should restrict itself by giving broad-based unbinding policy guidelines or some limited and specific policy directives on the issue of national security to PEMRA to regulate private electronic media.
* The following provision of promulgated ordinance pertaining to policy instructions will be an
additional tool for the government of the day to suppress the freedom of Press. "The federal government may, as and when it considers necessary, issue directives to the Authority on the matters of policy, and such directives shall be binding on the Authority."
* Legal experts pinpoint the duplicity and overlapping of PEMRA function and operation with that of PTA. They cited the existing laws of both under which both regulatory bodies in telecommunication and media sectors will be responsible for regulating the establishment and operation of all broadcasts and CTV stations in Pakistan simultaneously.
* Under Cable Television Operation Rules-2000 and Cable TV Regulations, 2000 based on PTA Act and PEMRA Ordinance, the operation of both regulators will overlap in issuance of licenses for the purpose of broadcasting and setting of CTV stations in different categories including, international, national, provincial scale stations; local area or community based stations; specific and specialized subject stations; and cable television network stations.
* Maj Gen (retd) Shahzada Alam, who was recently notified as Chairman PTA for four years on February 28, on his retirement from army on February 27,2002, has admitted possible operational overlapping of PEMRA and PTA. "The moment PEMRA formally starts functioning, we will hand over PTA's operation related to cable TVs to PEMRA," he concluded.
* "We'd look into the issue (of overlapping function) while finalising operational modalities of the Authority, said Saleem Gul Sheikh, recently appointed member of PEMRA. "One hopes that, as PEMRA discourages the formation of electronic media monopolies and the concentration of media conglomerates in any one city by holding back licenses to the print media giants, it does not go too far in asserting its authority. The ordinance bars foreign companies from setting up channels in Pakistan, and binds all broadcasters to give at least 10 per cent of their airtime to government-recommen ded programming. Also, it leaves it to Pemra to judge which type of programming is consistent with the cultural, social and religious values, and "the sovereignty, security and integrity of Pakistan."
* There is a danger in all this - the private channels may disappoint the viewers by producing the same kind of tepid and dull programmes they see on the state-controlled channels. One hopes PEMRA will not take on the role of a mentor too seriously and thus kill the spirit behind its formation - which is to give the people livelier entertainment, besides news and comments that do not replicate government policy.
____________ _________ _________ _________ __
Prime Problem Over Prime Time
A constitution petition to declare country's airwaves as public property and liberate electronic media from official clutches is already pending in the Supreme Court of Pakistan since 1990s. However meanwhile interesting cases haves reached country's courts against the systematic sale of airtime on state run television. Here is a recent such example:
A constitutional petition (No 2158 of 2001) was filed before the Sindh High Court on October 6, 2001 by Combine Media (Pvt) Ltd and 11 other petitioners against the Federation of Pakistan and Pakistan Television Corporation Limited under Article 199 of the Constitution.
The petitioners submitted: "That PTV telecasts its programmes on the national network throughout Pakistan, and even beyond its territory through satellite, and has also established local television stations in all the provinces of the country including the province of Sindh.
"On January 19, 2001, PTV, by way of a public notice/advertisemen t published in national dailies/newspapers, invited offers from competitive TV production companies for the allocation of day-wise airtime for the entertainment segment on Channel-3 for Monday to Sunday, between 1700 to 2400 hours (5 pm to midnight).
"That the invitation of offer was open to all without any restrictions of whatsoever nature. The invitation was based on individual offers by all competitive TV production companies. In connection with the aforesaid tender, on 19th February, 2001, a notice was received by the petitioner Combine Media from the General Manager PTV whereby intimation was given for a meeting relating to airtime to be held on 21st February, 2001.
"The meeting was attended by the representatives of the 23 parties interested in buying airtime on Channel-3. The parties were informed that the approximate price will be Rs 170-180 million per year for five hours of evening prime time transmission from 6 pm to 11 pm.
"It is pertinent to point out that originally the invitation of bids for the sale of airtime was called for the hours 5 pm to 12 pm (midnight), but in the first meeting the airtime was curtailed by PTV and only airtime from 6 pm to 11 pm was shown as being available for sale. Two hours of airtime was curtailed without any plausible or lawful justification.
"It was highly strange and astonishing that instead of considering the offers of every individual (bidder) separately and in a transparent manner on the basis of equal objective considerations for the air time in the light and sprit of the public notice/advertisement published for inviting offers, the MD, PTV imported a unique idea and insisted, rather forced, all 23 parties interested in purchasing airtime to form consortiums amongst themselves.
"The purported spirit and alleged good faith shown by the MD behind his idea of forming consortiums was to provide an opportunity to more and more parties, and it was further declared unilaterally that airtime would be awarded to a maximum of two consortiums, with one consortium to be awarded 4 days and one 3 days a week on Channel-3. Several other terms and conditions were imposed by the MD/officials of PTV that were inconsistent with, and contrary to, the terms and conditions of the initial invitation of offer/ tender notice.
"The meeting was concluded by the one-sided decision of the MD with the announcement of the next date of meeting being fixed for 2nd March, 2001 at 11 am, when the parties were required to make their presentations along with their proposed programming mix. The constitution of consortiums by the parties was also to be put forward (at the 2nd March, 2001 meeting)."
"On 26th February 2001, another notice of meeting for 2nd March 2001 was received. In this meeting, the Combine Media, along with other petitioners and members of their consortium, submitted a letter intimating PTV the name of their consortium 'Alliance TV Network' comprising 13 companies out of the total of 23 bidders.
"The names of the companies, that is, the members of their consortium, were also mentioned in the letter. Besides other things, it was clearly communicated to MD PTV that that their intention was to apply for the full seven days (per week) of programming (on Channel-3) as PTV's advertisement in the press did not mention any restrictions in terms of the number of days or hours, or that the bidders were to form consortiums.
"It was further stated in the aforesaid letter that: '
Given the fact that the rates for airtime and number of hours available per day were said to be open to negotiation, we therefore are submitting a blank cheque No. 0769741 drawn on Standard Chartered Grindlays in favour of Pakistan Television Corporation.
"The cheque is being submitted as proof of our seriousness and sincerity in terms of our application for Channel-3.
"Besides providing other details, the profiles of the companies who had joined the consortium were also mentioned, such as that most of the members of the consortium have a proven track record both in unique programming and in marketing, none of the members have any significant slots on the PTV network or on PTV World, some of the members are pioneers in Pakistani TV programming/ marketing (not to mention that some are also veterans of Lollywood), some members have experience in international productions, and most member companies have wholly-owned or associate marketing companies, companies that have set examples in media-marketing scorebooks.
"In the follow-up of the meeting held on 2nd March, 2001, a letter dated 9th March, 2001 was received by the petitioners' consortium from the General Manager PTV Channel-3. This letter was addressed to four consortiums, that is, consortium No 1 comprising four members, namely:
(1) Broadcast Marketing Network (Pvt) Limited, Karachi,
(2) Weekend World (Pvt) Ltd, Karachi,
(3) Telestar (Pvt) Limited, Islamabad, and
(4) UNI TV (Pvt) Limited, Lahore.
"The second consortium comprised two members, namely:
(1) Pinnacle Productions, Lahore, and
(2) Media Magic (Pvt) Ltd.
"The third consortium comprised two members, namely:
(1) Sports Star International, Karachi, and
(2) Eveready Pictures (Pvt) Limited.
"The fourth consortium belonged to the petitioners and their members. This was the largest consortium, comprising thirteen members out of the total 23 bidders.
"In this letter, inter alia, the parties were informed that the competent authority has agreed in principle that air time available for sale to private parties for programming on Channel-3 is 6 pm to 10 pm daily, that is, four hours per day.
"It is pertinent to point out that the original airtime was reduced in the last meeting and was said to be available from 6 pm to 11 pm daily, but in the aforesaid letter (from PTV) the parties were informed that now airtime would be available from 6 pm to 10 pm.
"The price for this time slot was fixed at Rs 180 million for a telecast period of one year, seven days a week. 14th March, 2001 was fixed as the date for depositing the cheque for advance airtime rental equivalent to the number of days applied for by the respective parties."
"Three bidders - Media International, Karachi, AVTEK, Islamabad and Syndicate Productions - were dropped from the scenario just because of the reason that they were not inclined to form any consortium.
"On 8th June, 2001, Combine Media was informed by PTV that the competent authority had not accepted their offer.
"That for selling the other airtime and prime time for PTV, PTV World, etc, the respondents PTV did not call or invite any bid.
"The petitioner Combine Media and the petitioner Goldwater Media, both private production houses, applied numerous times for different time slots but they have been refused and denied airtime on one pretext or the other, except for a few irregular time slots allowed after long intervals.
"The decisions for such time slots are always partial, and are continuously being granted to only a few parties who are favourites of the higher-ups of the respondents for different reasons. By not inviting public bids for other time slots, as mentioned above, not only is a loss to the public exchequer incurred but the fundamental rights of all such persons engaged in private production, who have the best serials, dramas and a variety of other programmes, are also seriously infringed and violated.
"PTV is not private property but is a public service company under the control and supervision of the government of Pakistan. In all instances of selling time slots for different channels of PTV they are bound to grant or sell time slots by inviting bids in the newspapers in a transparent and open-policy manner, without any discrimination or favour to any party.
"However, only particular individuals or groups of individuals are being benefited repeatedly by one or the other quarter. After purchasing time slots they (these individuals and groups) also used to sell airtime to other parties at exorbitant prices."
"That the rejection of the bid of the largest consortium of the petitioners by the respondents is discriminatory, arbitrary and an illegal exercise of discretion. The alleged aim of the Managing Director of PTV in insisting on the bidders forming consortiums amongst themselves to accommodate more parties was to make a show of transparency, which was not acted upon by the respondents PTV and the Federation of Pakistan, and the bid of the largest consortium of the petitioners was rejected without assigning any reason. The act of the respondents suffers from partiality, discrimination, arbitrariness, bias, lack of transparency, equal standards of treatment on merits, and is manifestly unjust.
"The 12 petitioners in the case are:
(1) Combine Media (Pvt) Limited, 4th Floor, Shafi Courts, Merewether Road, Karachi;
(2) Goldwater Media Communications (Pvt) Ltd, Suite No 108, Progressive Plaza, Beaumont Road, Karachi;
(3) Mian Imtiazuddin, Proprietor, Red Hill, Islamabad, 31 Askari Villa, Chaklala Road, Rawalpindi;
(4) Jamal Shah, Proprietor, Hunerkada Academy of Visual and Performing Arts, 17, Street 83, C-64, Embassy Road, Islamabad;
(5) Icon Television Network (Pvt) Ltd, D-1, Sea Breeze Homes, Sher Shah Block, New Garden Town, Lahore;
(6) Entertainment Television Marketing (Pvt) Ltd, 15-C, 3rd Floor, Zamzama, DHA Phase V, Karachi;
(7) Ghulam Haider, proprietor Interactive Media, 4-C, 14th Street, Khayaban-e-Shamshee r, DHA, Karachi;
(8) Haroon Rasheed, Proprietor, Val-Mar, Kar, 44-C, 26th Commercial Street, DHA Phase V, Karachi;
(9) Ashraf Lakhani, Shareholder, Combine Media (Pvt.) Limited, 4th Floor, Shafi Courts, Merewether Road, Karachi;
(10) Talent Factory (Pvt) Ltd, Office at 30, Street No 1, DHA Phase VI, Karachi;
(11) Mohammed Azad, Shareholder, Goldwater Media Communications (Pvt) Ltd, 108, Progressive Plaza, Beaumont Road, Karachi; and
(12) Kamal Farooq, Shareholder, Combine Media (Pvt) Ltd, 4th Floor, Shafi Courts, Merewether Road, Karachi."
PTV MD's Newspaper Statement
The PTV MD said that it is considering filing a contempt of court application against a newspaper group for trying to influence the court. Yousaf Beg Mirza, managing director of the PTV, said the newspaper group backed a writ petition filed by the Combined Media Limited against the PTV. He said the PTV board of directors had already passed a resolution that print media would not be given prime time on the PTV because of unfair competition in the market, as print media could take undue advantage because of cross holdings. Interestingly, PTV has started daily Kissan Times (Time for Farmers) and a newspaper group manages this time, ostensibly in violation of PTV's announced policy.
They said it:
"OK, I apologise. It shouldn't have happened."
-President Gen Pervez Musharraf at a press conference on April 16, 2002 referring to a baton charge of 29 journalists in Faisalabad two days earlier by the police at a rally addressed by him. "They are spreading negative thinking, spreading lies." -President Gen Pervez Musharraf on April 15, 2002 during his speech at a rally in Abbotabad, accusing journalists of playing down the size of the rallies he had been addressing across the country to drum up support for his referendum.
"It isn't patriotic of Pakistani companies to advertise on Indian [television] channels as India has amassed troops on our borders." -Information Minister Nisar Memon addressing a workshop in Karachi on April 14, 2002.
"The people have voiced their support for President Musharraf but journalists have been misreporting this. Shame on them. They should not play with the people's emotions. If they do, they will court danger." -Punjab Governor Lt Gen (retd) Khalid Maqbool at a referendum rally in Faisalabad on April 14, 2002. He urged the rally to raise slogans of "Shame! Shame!" against the press.
"Pakistani journalists were of two categories. The left wing liberal journalist could be bought by India for two bottles of whisky while the right wing journalists were patriotic. The job of the 'purchased' journalist was to pick up disinformation published in India and print it in Pakistan as his own investigative work. The ISI did not meddle in journalism and there was nothing that Pakistani journalists could do for the ISI in the field of intelligence gathering." -Lt. Gen. (Retd) Javed Ashraf Qazi, federal minister and ex-Director General, Inter Services Intelligence on March 18, 2002 in PTV's News Night program.
"It is generally known and accepted by everyone in the profession in Pakistan that Mr. (Ayaz) Amir and Mr. Cowasjee are two islands of freedom, permitted by the government media managers, to be presented to the world as show pieces of press freedom. But can they, or should they, speak for the entire press in Pakistan? I think, as I have experienced for 15 months, the ground reality outside these two islands is very different, not very stunning, often ugly and despicable. I remember all the night calls that I received to either stop a story, play it down or at
least give it a mild headline." Shaheen Sehbai's letter to editor in Dawn, March 29, 2002
"Unethical and immoral programmes on cable, TV and in films were the main reason for rising obscenity in the society. The absence of an effective censor board gave courage to the cable operators and producers for producing vulgar programmes to the public" Letter from Council of Islamic Ideology to the government. June 23, 2001.
"The meeting expressed concern over threats to press freedom, 'directives' and 'orders' received from the government with regard to the publication of news and photographs, especially press advice issued by the government." -Statement issued by CPNE after its meeting in Bhurban on May 20, 2001.
"The Information Ministry has issued no press advice. No discriminatory treatment was ever meted out by the Information Ministry against any newspaper or its management, irrespective of the publication of favorable or hostile news and views with regard to the government's performance. "-A spokesman of the ministry in a statement on May 21, 2001. "Several newspapers jointly complained that some bureaucrats are creating hindrance in the working of editors. It was said that newspapers have been asked to play down the news about the water crisis." -Statement issued by CPNE after its meeting in Bhurban on May 20, 2001.
"The Chief Executive says the press is free while on the other side, telephone calls are being received from the high-ups about the coverage of news. It is astonishing that advice is given for putting the headlines of 'their' choice on official news. There is also government advice to some newspapers to take down editorials in accordance with its own desire."-Statement issued by CPNE after it's meeting in Bhurban on May 20, 2001.
"Occasional difference of opinion notwithstanding, the press today has acted with a sense of responsibility and the criticism, if any, has been taken by the government in a spirit of understanding and tolerance." -Spokesman of the Ministry of Information in a statement on May 21, 2001.
"We are moving from a totally controlled environment to a much more liberal and freer environment as far as presentation of [PTV and Radio Pakistan] news is concerned. Let's consolidate this freedom." -Secretary Information Anwar Mehmood addressing a conference of PTV general managers on May 3, 2001.
"Foreign media is spreading despondency. For example, a poor man had died by snakebite in June last year  near Bahawalpur but it was projected through a photograph by a foreign news agency that he died of drought. When facts were provided to the agency, the foreign agency apologised to us. The country's electronic media projected both the contradiction and apology properly, but the print media published it on inner pages."-Government spokesman Maj Gen Rashid Qureshi addressing a seminar in Rawalpindi on June 14, 2001.
"With issues of national and international importance at stake in the [Omar Sheikh] trial, it is crucial that proceedings be conducted in an open and transparent manner." -Executive Director CPJ Ann Cooper on April 4, 2002 as close-door trial began in a Karachi prison.
Government Freedom to Press the Media in Pakistan Grows
An occasion such as the World Press Freedom Day serves as a juncture to remind that freedom of expression is no fickle or insignificant thing, as the government would have us believe. If anything, the period that this report covers highlights both its growing importance as it does the growing impatience of the government of the time with the Press.
The chequered history of how the Press has been treated in Pakistan continues an extended run mirrored by the government's shifting priorities. One reason why the Press has had rough patches this past year in its tense relations with the military government is perhaps because the Press is the only party that continues to impart meaning to democracy and pluralism.
Three major instances this past year serve to highlight how it is becoming increasingly difficult and dangerous to function as an independent journalist in Pakistan. The first was the diabolical murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, the second the shock resignation of Shaheen Sehbai, the editor of The News, in controversial circumstances and the third, a brute use of force on a large group of journalists in Faisalabad, egged on by one of the most powerful officials of the country.
But much before all this, the first major shock to the Press came in June when the police in Abbotabad raided the office of local Urdu daily Mohasib and arrested its editor, managing editor, news editor and a sub-editor. The police pressed blasphemy charges against them on the basis of an article printed in the newspaper that contested the view of some local clerics that a beardless man cannot be a good Muslim and criticised them for exploiting religious faith for personal gain.
The same month, a special anti-narcotics court in Lahore convicted Rehmat Shah Afridi, owner and chief editor of dailies The Frontier Post and Maidan, on drug smuggling charges and sentenced him to death.
He has been imprisoned since April 2, 1999, when the Anti-Narcotics Force arrested him in a predawn sting operation in Lahore claiming they agents found 21 kg hashish in his car and 651 kg hashish in a truck allegedly owned by him. Afridi has repeatedly denied the charges and says he has been framed. Afridi's arrest followed a series of articles published by The Frontier Post accusing ANF officers of involvement in the drug trade.
In the weeks after 9/11, the number of foreign journalists in Pakistan swelled. Pakistan's location alongside Afghanistan, the target of Washington's war against terrorism, made it a natural destination for journalists. However, journalists reporting along the border between the two countries complained of restrictions on access to Afghan refugee camps and requirements that armed government security officers accompany them.
With the Taliban banning entry, many tried to sneak in illegally from Pakistan, which initially warned the journalists to stay away from the border and not cross it without valid papers and detained numerous for trying to defy orders. Once Taliban were routed from power, most journalists entered Afghanistan from Pakistan in droves and the government could do little to stop them.
In December, tensions between India and Pakistan led to restrictions on communications by both countries. The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), which regulates cable television operators, issued orders to cable operators to stop transmission of Indian channels, saying the decision was taken in view of "one-sided, poisonous Indian propaganda by that country's channels aimed at tarnishing Pakistan's image."
According to a PTA announcement, the Indian television channels were propagating malicious material against the security of Pakistan, thus violating the conditions of the license issued to cable television operators. PTA warned that the licenses of the cable operators would be cancelled if they were found to be violating the orders. The operators complied.
Two years earlier, during the military confrontation between India and Pakistan in Kargil, Kashmir, India had cited the same reasons for banning the transmission of Pakistan television programmes by Indian cable operators.
Then came January and Daniel Pearl disappeared from Karachi apparently trying to interview leaders of radical Islamic groups. A previously unknown group calling itself "The National Movement for Restoration of Pakistani Sovereignty, " sent an e-mail message to newspapers claiming it had captured Pearl, accusing him first of being a CIA agent posing as a journalist and then a Mossad agent. The message included four photographs of Pearl - one with a gun pointed at his head.
The message said Pearl was being kept "in very inhuman circumstances quite similar to the way Pakistanis and nationals of other sovereign countries are being kept in Cuba by the American army. If the Americans keep our countrymen in better conditions, then we will better the conditions of Pearl and all other Americans that we capture." The e-mail message demanded that Pakistanis being held at Guantanamo Bay be given access to lawyers and their families, and be returned to Pakistan to be tried in a Pakistani court.
An elaborate search finally led to the arrest of Ahmed Omar Saeed Shaikh who confessed to killing Pearl. No one believed him but on Eid day, the authorities received a videotape that showed Pearl being violently beheaded. The US government confirmed that his captors had killed him. Pearl's body has not been recovered.
In March a new development shocked the media circles in Pakistan. Shaheen Sehbai, the influential editor of The News, one of Pakistan's leading English-language newspapers, resigned. In a resignation letter addressed to his boss that he also circulated among colleagues, he said he was quitting under pressure from the government, warning that it was sending a message to the Press to "Get in line, or be ready for the stick." The Ministry of Information and Media Development dismissed Sehbai's allegations of interfering in the affairs of The News.
Sehbai said pressure on the newspaper had increased in recent weeks, culminating with the government's canceling lucrative advertising. He charged that the government discouraged reporting on such sensitive subjects as alleged links between the intelligence agencies and local militant groups saying that such reporting damages 'national interests.'
Sehbai claimed that the government pressured his boss Shakilur Rehman to fire him and three reporters - Kamran Khan, Amir Mateen, and Rauf Klasra. Rehman denied he was under any pressure to do so but in a memo to Sehbai, he complained of "fallout" from a recent story "which was perceived to be damaging to our national interest and elicited severe reaction by the government."
The report under contention was filed by Kamran Khan and related to Omar Sheikh, the prime suspect in the abduction of slain Daniel Pearl. Khan reported that Sheikh had told investigators he was also involved in the 13 December suicide squad attack on the Indian Parliament. India blamed Pakistan-backed militants for the attack, leading to escalating tensions between the two countries, bringing them to the brink of a war.
The Nation, a competitor of The News, wrote in an editorial: "There is a growing perception of subtle, and at times not so subtle, pressure being applied to publications critical of government policies."
Perhaps the worst setback to the cause of the freedom of the Press in the year came in April when Punjab police went berserk during a rally staged to promote a referendum to prolong General Pervez Musharraf's presidency for another five years. Dozens of journalists walked out of the rally to protest hostile remarks by Punjab Governor Lt Gen (retd) Khalid Maqbool, who accused the media of undermining Musharraf's referendum campaign "by publishing fake reports." As the journalists left the rally, which was held at the Iqbal Stadium, baton-wielding police officers assaulted them.
Members of the public also assaulted some journalists after Maqbool, warned that "the public could take revenge on the journalists if they do not desist from wrong reporting." He then led the crowd in chanting "Shame! Shame!" against the press, prompting the journalists to walk out.
The attacks, which landed several of the journalists in hospital for treatment, are disturbing because the sequence of events shows that they were inspired by Governor Maqbool's diatribe against the press. After repeated demands, President Gen Musharraf apologised at a press conference for the incident but refused demands to sack Governor Maqbool for his unprecedented unprovoked hostility. He said he had set up an inquiry committee to apportion blame.
Reacting to this incident, Ann Cooper, the executive director of the US-based Committee to Protect Journalists, summed up the state of media in Pakistan today: "The very nature of military rule threatens press freedom in Pakistan. Journalists no longer enjoy constitutional protections, and other democratic safeguards have been deeply compromised. "
Pakistani governments don't suffer the Press gladly. When the heat is on any government, the Press is the first to get the stick. Unless no less than the head of state comes out of a policy statement upholding the right of all journalists in Pakistan to report freely, without fear of reprisal, the Press will continue to be vulnerable, as the Faisalabad incident amply demonstrates.
Chronology of Events Between May 3, 2001 and May 3, 2002
* May 4, 2001
Police in Bahawalpur arrested Ahmed Nawaz Abbasi, correspondent for Nawa-i-Waqt for providing the French news agency AFP a photograph of the corpse of a man who had died due to the drought in the Cholistan desert. Officials said Abbasi had provided an old photograph, published in most national newspapers. It later transpired that the photograph was indeed old.
* May 9, 2001
Unknown assailants made an attempt on the life of C R Shamsi, reporter for daily Ausaf. The police refused to register a case.
* May 14, 2001
Hadi Sanghi, photographer for daily Kawish was beaten by police officers in Larkana for taking photographs of the release from prison of nationalist politician Qadir Magsi and his 18 associates.
* May 31, 2001
The additional district and session judge, Islamabad banned the media coverage of the proceedings of the blasphemy case being heard against Prof. Younas Sheikh. The court official said the ban had been imposed to prevent the sentiments of Muslims from being hurt by details of the proceedings.
* June 3, 2001
Police in Abbotabad sealed the offices of daily Mohasib and arrested Zaman Khan, editor, Shahid Chaudhry, managing editor, Shakil Tahirkheli, news editor, and Raja Haroon, sub-editor. The police brought blasphemy charges against these journalists.
* June 6, 2001
Two unidentified persons attacked and injured, Fakhar Alam, reporter of an Urdu daily in Mansehra.
* June 13, 2001
A senior police officer mistreated staff photographer of the News, Raja Khalid and snatched his camera and took out film from it.
* June 27, 2001
A special anti-narcotics court in Lahore convicted Rehmat Shah Afridi, owner and chief editor of dailies The Frontier Post and Maidan, on drug smuggling charges and sentenced him to death.
* July 4, 2001
The officials of law enforcing agencies used abusive language against Dawn's staff photographer, Tanveer Shehzad and the Nation's photographer, U.K. Alizai at a polling booth in Rawalpindi during local bodies elections.
* July 11, 2001
Police arrested Hasan Mahmood Orakzai, Hangu correspondent of daily Mashriq for filing reports on the deteriorating law and order situation in the area.
* July 25, 2001
The security officials manhandled journalists from The Nation and Dawn and misbehaved with lady reporters and stopped them from covering the concluding session of the South Asian Girl-Child symposium in Islamabad.
* July 26, 2001
The timber mafia attacked and injured Amjad Ali Shah correspondent daily Mashriq in Dir. Mr. Shah had exposed the activities of timber mafia.
* July 27, 2001
The government reinstated the publishing licence of weekly K-2, published in Gilgit, Baltistan, in the Northern Areas. The declaration was restored almost a year after it was revoked in August 2000 on the charge of publishing "objectionable material."
* August 6,2001
Un-known attackers injured, Shoaib Bhutta, editor weekly, Tuluoo in Islamabad. The injured journalist had to spent weeks in hospital with his broken leg.
* August 14, 2001
The government issued an ordinance under which printing, publishing or disseminating any material, or projecting any person convicted of a terrorist act or any banned group [militant sectarian groups Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Sipah-e-Mohammed were banned the same day under the ordinance] would be an offence punishable by up to six months jail. However, the ordinance clarified that "[a] factual news report made in good faith shall not be construed to mean projection [of a person or organisation] ."
* September 3, 2001
Pakistan ordered removal of an article covering the controversial blasphemy laws in Newsweek magazine before its distribution in the country. The censored article, "Talking is Dangerous," highlighted the prosecution of Shaikh Mohammed Younus, a professor sentenced to death under blasphemy law for allegedly insulting Prophet Mohammed.
* September 4, 2001
Rana Akram, correspondent for daily Pakistan was killed in a grenade attack on his office in Daska. An unidentified dacoit forced his entry into a jeweler's shop, which was also used by Akram as his office, and took him at gunpoint. In the brawl that followed, the dacoit lobbed a grenade at him and fled. The explosion killed the journalist instantly.
* September 18, 2001
Security forces near a military base and Peshawar airport briefly detained photographer Jon Ingemundsew of Norwegian newspaper Stavanger Aftenblad and Ghafar
Baig of Online.
* September 25, 2001
An Irish television crew was briefly detained after they filmed a refugee camp near Peshawar. The same day, the Frontier Corps interrogated members of a CNN team led by Asia correspondent Mike Chinoy. In addition, a television crew from the French station TF1 were denied access to Darra Adamkhel. Police also briefly arrested a Japanese television crew near the Afghan border.
* October 5, 2001
Khyber Agency authorities detained Iqbal Faridi of daily Al-Akhbar, Rifatullah Orakzai of daily Khyber Mail and Syed Karim of daily Khabrain who were serving as guides of French television channel LCI, Olivier Ravanello and Jérome Marcantetti, who were also arrested. The French were released on October 8 and the Pakistanis on October 11.
* October 9, 2001
Two French photographers, Patrick Aventurier of Gamma agency and Vincent Laforêt of New York Times were beaten by policemen in Quetta as they tried to take photos of an ambulance carrying the body of a child killed during a demonstration against the American and British air strikes in Afghanistan.
* October 11, 2001
Pakistani authorities arrested Aziz Zemouri, a French reporter for Figaro magazine, after Taliban officials handed him to them after he crossed into Afghanistan a week earlier. He was freed three days after when French Foreign Minister Hubert Védrine phones his Pakistani counterpart, Abdul Sattar.
* October 13, 2001
Pakistan warned to deport any foreign journalists who visit its prohibited border region or travel to Afghanistan without proper documents. The warning came from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs after two French and one British journalist were arrested after slipping into Afghanistan.
* October 25, 2001
Aditya Sinha, journalist for Indian daily Hindustan Times was arrested and later expelled by Pakistan after covering a meeting of religious and Afghan leaders in Peshawar during the early days of the Afghan war.
* November 2, 2001
A reporter of daily Jang Karachi received an envelope containing anthrax spores.
* November 7, 2001
US-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said Pakistan is refusing to give visas to some reporters of Indian ethnicity trying to cover the war in Afghanistan. Journalists who were unable to get Pakistani visas were a number of BBC staffers based in New Delhi, CNN New Delhi bureau chief Satinder Bindra (a Canadian citizen), Moni Basu (an Indian who is a permanent US resident and works for Atlanta Journal-Constitution) and Raja Mishra (a Boston Globe staffer and Nebraska native).
* November 9, 2001
British reporter Christina Lamb of daily Telegraph, who was in Quetta to cover the Afghan war, was deported from Pakistan after she tried to book a flight in the name of "O B Laden" [Osama bin Laden] to check if such a thing could indeed happen.
* November 15, 2001
Armed men attacked the offices of daily Paigham in Sahiwal and ransacked the offices and manhandled editors and staff for news about local militant groups.
* November 16, 2001
NWFP authorities prevented a convoy of Pakistani and foreign reporters from leaving Peshawar for the Afghan border at Torkham. The day before, more than 100 reporters crossed the border with a convoy of thousands of armed men, organised by one Commander Mullah Zaman. The security forces did not prohibit the journalists from entering Afghanistan, but the authorities announced later that reporters who try to return to Pakistan would be subject to an inspection.
* November 16, 2001
Army officer in Islamabad assaulted Dawn reporter Faraz Hashmi after their cars bumped on the road. The police refused to register a case on Hashmi's request and the attack, which left him injured, came just days after he put an uncomfortable question to President Pervez Musharraf in a press conference, which visibly infuriated the president.
* November 24, 2001
The government ordered closure of any printing press in the country used for printing "provocative posters" against the military regime's support to the US-led coalition against terrorism, The News reported.
* December 8, 2001
Washington Post reporter Rajiv Chandrasekaran left Pakistan after being ordered out by the government after he overstayed his visa. His visa expired on November 22 but he remained in Pakistan without getting an extension
* December 8, 2001
Armed men barged in the Hyderabad bureau of daily Ummat and beat up two staff members. They ransacked the office, broke furniture, computers, a television, a fax machine and telephone sets.
* December 29, 2001
Pakistan Telecommunication Authority, the regulatory body for cable TV operators, issued directions to cable operators to stop the transmission of Indian channels, saying the decision was taken "in view of the one-sided, poisonous Indian propaganda by that country's channels aimed at tarnishing Pakistan's image."
* December 9, 2001
Robert Fisk, correspondent for London-based daily Independent, was assaulted by a mob of Afghan refugees in Pakistan, near the border town of Chaman. He suffered injuries to his head, face and hand before being saved by a local religious leader.
* December 10, 2001
Bureau offices of dailies Zamana and Balochistan Times in Karachi were completely gutted when a major fire broke out.
* December 31, 2001
All Pakistan Cable Operators Association announced a halt to broadcasting Indian TV channels, saying they "fully endorse the PTA decision and cable operators in Pakistan will not tolerate false propaganda against Pakistan by Indian channels."
* January 2, 2002
Islamabad authorities slap a 30-day ban on publication of the Urdu daily Dopehar for publishing a news item about differences in federal cabinet on the issue of crackdown against extremist parties. The ban is revoked four days later.
* January 3, 2002
Hyderabad Police registers an undetailed criminal case against daily Kawish editor Ali Kazi and executive editor Ayub Kazi for running reports of police complicity in local crimes.
* January 22, 2002
Time magazine's Pakistan correspondent Ghulam Hasnain goes missing. He surfaces two days later amid reports that he was picked up by the intelligence agencies for
questioning over his reporting of their affairs.
* January 23, 2001
Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, 38, was abducted in Karachi while investigating a story about Islamic militants. On February 21, after receiving a videotape containing graphic evidence of his murder, the US government officials confirmed that his captors had killed him. Pearl's body has not been recovered.
* March 1, 2002
Shaheen Sehbai, the editor The News, one of Pakistan's leading English newspapers, resigned, saying he was leaving his post under pressure from the government, warning that it was sending a message to the press to "Get in line, or be ready for the stick." In his letter to Mir Shakilur Rehman, publisher and editor-in-chief of The News, Sehbai accused the government of pushing Rehman to fire him and three reporters - Kamran Khan, Amir Mateen, and Rauf Klasra - because their reporting had angered officials. Sehbai said he would rather quit than dismiss the reporters.
* March 9, 2002
Government bans entry of journalists in the accountability court at Attock hearing corruption case against Asif Zardari, the husband of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.
* March 27, 2002
Islamabad authorities prevented an all-parties consultation on freedom of information arranged by the Consumer Rights Commission of Pakistan and the British Council, saying it amounted to a political gathering, which the government had banned.
* March 30, 2002
Lahore High Court serves summons on printers, publishers, editors-in-chief, editors and reporters of Urdu dailies Jang and Awaz to show cause why they should not be tried for "gross contempt for wrongfully reporting court proceedings" in a case involving the conviction of two lawyers for cheating in a written exam conducted by the court."
* April 14, 2002
About 25 journalists were injured, some so seriously they had to be hospitalised, when police assaulted them with batons after they boycotted President Gen Pervez Musharraf's speech at a public rally in Faisalabad in response to an irate public attack on the press by Punjab Governor Lt Gen (retd) Khalid Maqbool. Journalists injured included: A R Shuja, Tahir Rasheed and M Tasneem of Khabrain, Ibrahim Lucky of Online, Mian Aslam of Business Report, Mehtabuddin Nishat of Ghareeb, Sarfaraz Sahi of Insaf, Malik Naeem and Ashfaq Jahangir of Parwaz, Naseer Cheema and Muhammad Bilal of Current Report, Hamid Raza of Juraat, Ramzan Nasir of Tehrik, Mayed Ali of The News, Roman Ihsan of Jang, Nasir Butt, Zia Ullah and M Khalid of Pakistan, Mian Saeef of Ausaf, Jawed Siddiqui of Musawat, Saeed Qadri of Din, Rifaat Qadri of NNI and Jawed Malik of Soorat-i-Hal.
Advertising Ethics Need Upgrading
Although Pakistan is marching into the age of commercialised media, where advertising sets the agenda in electronic and print media, the country either does not have a code of ethics for advertisers or have failed to implement it. State-owned PTV has long been commercialized after being turned into corporation but it only cares for the money at the cost of exposing viewers to unethical commercials.
For a one-hour prime time programme, PTV-1 charges Rs 180,000. Little wonder then that the drama producer is more interested in earning money than giving any
quality to the viewers.
The TV code of advertising standards and practices were approved in 1995. Now PTV has been over-commercialized . It is only pertinent that these ethics be reviewed in keeping with the changed times.
The TV code says: It is essential to maintain consistently high standards of television advertising. In judging advertisements, the main consideration will be the impression it is likely to create on an average audience, which includes children and young persons of innate judgment and of impressionable age. The code also bans sublime advertising or where the promotion is implicit.
In disregard to these guidelines, PTV has been flouting its own codes and has given free hand to advertisers to indulge in unethical practices.
If on the one hand, the officially controlled PTV is after national advertisers, on the other it is not bothered to expand outreach to advertisers in South Asia by promoting itself as a 'family channel.' So far its policy is limited to reaching overseas Pakistanis in the Gulf, Europe and in North America, not the large Urdu speaking population in South Asia. The reason is that Pakistan Television Corporation's narrow and strict censor code for advertisers is hindering further growth in its commercial revenues.
Before putting a commercial film or telop on PTV, it is mandatory for an advertiser to give an undertaking in writing to the secretary PTV/STN censor board that models appearing in the commercial are not Indian nationals; that the strains of music and soundtrack have not been borrowed from Indian compositions and that the commercial was not produced or shot in India. After that the commercial is presented to a special committee, which censors it by enforcing a strict interpretation of PTV's long code of ethics.
But the code of ethics is increasingly becoming irrelevant, given the emerging trends, in which PTV viewership is not limited to only in Pakistan but is increasingly in South Asia, Europe and America. It is only logical that PTV's advertising markets correspondingly expand, enticing commercials from all these countries.
But barring Indian models/music, even if they are not spreading any obscenity, is running contrary to PTV's commercial interest. Already many cable channels have starting attracting advertisers from Pakistan as their viewership is on the rise in Pakistan. These channels are not only showing a more liberal version of Pakistan music charts but have been observing caution in commenting about Pakistani culture or people.
Also relevant is the fact that one of the main reason for government not allowing new TV channels is due to a plea of PTV that given the limited economic activity, the advertisement keg in the country is very limited. If more private channels are allowed they will have their share from the advertisement revenue earned by PTV.
Many officials of the PTV fear that if new entrants in the field of electronic media deprive PTV of a major chunk of its revenue, it simply cannot not sustain a very big infrastructure of the PTV that the government has created over the years. Although the government has already deregulated PTV from its control and made it a corporation allowing it to generate its own revenue, 100 percent of its shares are held by the government, enabling it to have decisive powers in policy making and keeping it a potent tool of official propaganda - a non-commercial activity.
According to Yousaf Beg Mirza, in 2000, PTV earned a record profit of Rs 322 million - a big achievement considering that just four years ago, it was incurring an annual loss of 148.13 million. But since 1997-98, PTV has been in profit, which is steadily climbing. In 1997-97, it earned Rs 38 million in profit, which jumped to Rs 297 million in 1998-99.
PTV earns its income by selling airtime for drama to private productions, advertisements, license fee etc. Sources say virtually all PTV airtime is on sale except for the educational, religious and current affairs/news programmes.
In year 2000 PTV earned Rs 1.875 billion from advertisements and Rs 613 million as license fee. Interestingly, the advertisement revenue and license revenue are on the increase as last year the advertisement income was Rs 1.692 billion and license fee Rs 347 million.
License fee is charged for keeping a TV set regardless of whether you watch PTV or just ZEE or MTV. The collection of TV license fee by PTV is simply illogical as it is charged simply to sustain PTV's non-commercial activity - those it carries out under its strict code of ethics.
In simple words, PTV is forcefully charging Rs 613 million from TV set holders to keep their social morality intact. And what is PTV's code of ethics? In nutshell, it includes censoring the following elements from the commercials and programmes:
"female glamour related to their bathing," "touching cheeks with hands and making objectionable gestures," "waiving hair and swaying," "females in jeans and provocative dress" and "female appearance in bad taste giving indecent and vulgar looks which are considered contrary to Islamic values and are in clash with the average family atmosphere."
Officials defend this code of ethic pleading that they want to promote PTV in Pakistan and abroad as a family entertainment channel. But they have no answer when asked whether such an operation is financially sustainable, as given the growth of cable channels, the viewers can easily switch over to other channels.
Besides, even in a family channel, instead of imposing a uniform code of ethics, PTV should be categorising its programme into educational, religious and entertainment programmes for children and for adults and let viewers decide which programmes should be seen with the family and which ones not.
Under the present code of ethics, the difference between obscenity and education is a blur. For example a programme on breast cancer is not an educational but a vulgar programme. Similarly the vague mass awareness ads on AIDS and use of contraceptives have created more complications in the minds of the people than giving any specific information.
In case of the movies also, an archaic Motion Pictures Ordinance 1979 is in vogue. It only elucidates certain principles without setting certain code of ethics. Given the formation of central and provincial boards and the intellectual capacity of their members, obscenity has donned clothes and now one can see it even in dress. Among other conditions, the film code considers a film unfit for exhibition if it displays the living human figure "in the nude or in indecorous clothing in an obviously licentious manner with the intent to provoke lustful passion." The code simply bars making or exhibition of a medical film even for educational purposes. During all these years since its inception, has the code improved any intellect in the films? It certainly has scared off families from cinemas and now most cinegoers are from the lower segments of the society and most of the films and dances only provoke lustfulness.
In 1999, only 51 films were produced in Pakistan, 28 of them Urdu, 6 Punjabi and 17 Pashto.
A total of 826 license-holders of cable television networks in the country have been asked to observe the same code of ethics as prevailing on the Pakistan Television.
But since the ban on airing Indian channels on December 29 last year, there seems to be confusion in the implementation of code of ethics because now the government has to choose between obscenity and state interest. To fill for the missing banned channels, cable operators are now forced to show cheap English movies, which otherwise would have been banned under Pakistan film codes.
War Brings Riches For Pakistani Journalists
According to the Press Information Department of the Ministry of Information, over 700 foreign journalists visited Pakistan before and during the US air strikes on Afghanistan. Most were issued 60-day visas and only a handful renewed the visas. As for the "fixers" - local journalists who acted as guides to these foreign media persons - the PID says it has no record of them or of how much they earned by facilitating the foreign journalists.
However estimates show hundreds of Pakistani journalists worked as fixers or stringers for foreign channels and newspapers and their daily wages ranged
between $50 and $500.
Interestingly, many of these stringers frequently traveled to Afghanistan but neither state-owned PTV nor any independent newspaper in Pakistan sent correspondents to Afghanistan to cover war, leaving them mostly to rely on BBC and CNN.
There Should be Lawful Access to Official Media By Mushahid Hussain, ex-minister for information
On how free exactly is the media in Pakistan, both official and unofficial
The official state-owned media remains captive as before, barring occasional aberrations such as brief clips of political parties activity on Khabarnama or the dissenting views on Newsnight, similar to dissenting views regarding CTBT [Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty] and Kalabagh Dam expressed on PTV during the Nawaz Sharif's tenure.
The PML [Pakistan Muslim League] government did take a landmark initiative by showing the Question Hour in Parliament unedited, the first time this had been done along with programmes like Open Forum on PTV which were live and unedited, exposing officialdom to questions and criticism.
As for print media, it is almost as free as it was during democratic governments, with the usual spate of incidents that mar government-press relations (major ones in the present regime include the Shaheen Sehbai episode, the baton charge on journalists in Faisalabad during the President's referendum rally, the raid on Dawn during 2000, the mysterious thrashing of Shakil Sheikh of The News and removal of the reporter who asked an offensive question after the Agra summit).
Informal 'advice' and self-censorship in the 'supreme national interest' or out of fear remain levers of officialdom' s influence over a media dependent on state advertising. One difference is that in the past, articles could freely be published calling for the overthrow of the government, something unimaginable at present.
On how helpful - or otherwise - exactly is the Ministry of Information
The Ministry of Information serves as a middleman or liaison between Islamabad and the press. In the 21st century, its functions are essentially protocol - inviting media to press briefings or organising media trips overseas. It has no real role and deserves to be abolished. Its continuation in its present function is repeating the mistake of previous governments. On how can official information be made easily and fully accessible to the media
Governments in Pakistan, especially civilian ones, operate in Islamabad out of fear in a world of conspiracy theories and occasionally, actual conspiracies as well. The media is viewed as a 'threat' or as an adversary by all governments, and it is hard to see governments parting with information, which they fear can be used against them.
If an elected parliament enacts a law that truly imparts official information to parliament and press, it would be a revolutionary and welcome departure from the past. Let's first start with declassifying information about the past - the coups of 1958, 1969 and 1977, the assassination of Liaquat Ali and General Ziaul Haq, the Ojhri Camp report, the defence budgets, etc.
The press, the public and historians and scholars would benefit from such data, and more importantly, the truth will come out. The present regime deserves credit for releasing the Hamoodur Rahman Report, although it was done only after its release in India Today magazine.
On how can Pakistan have home-based independent television and radio channels that can carry independent current affairs programmes, especially independently produced news that can compete with Khabarnama
This can happen only when there is an ability to tell the truth without an agenda of either attacking or promoting a party, government or an individual. The key to it is carrying the opposition's perspective not just the officially certified truth. Quality will also come with professional competence among those producing such news shows.
On how can newspapers and journals be made affordable and widely available to most Pakistani people Price is not the only factor inhibiting larger circulations - the lack of literacy is another element. The government and newspaper owners should work it out so that abuses are avoided, e.g., false circulation figures or selling newsprint in the black market that is bought at officially rebated rates.
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Don't mess around with the press
For nearly three years we have praised General Pervez Musharraf's tolerant attitude towards the press as one of the most endearing features of his regime. When certain sections of the press were wont to exaggerate or misreport, General Musharraf would register his complaint and leave it at that. And when the government erred in unduly leveraging its demands, quiet diplomacy would resolve matters quickly. It was a mature relationship in which both sides were acutely aware of the limits of power and the requirements of responsibility.
Of late, however, overt tensions are manifest in government-press relations. The "list" of incidents in which the government has reacted indiscreetly, and sometimes brutally, against members of the press cannot be brushed aside any longer. Nor can we remain sanguine about the increasing use of press "advice" by the secret and not-so-secret agencies of the government to try and influence newspaper owners and editors. The developing rift is now out in the open. General Musharraf has publicly accused the press of deliberately downgrading his public rallies and gone on to suggest that some press wallas are recipients of financial incentives from "discredited" political forces opposed to his reform agenda.
So what's new? Every government to date has clutched at similar conspiracy theories to justify its dislike of an independent press. Indeed, the press is used to being wooed by politicians and generals alike when they are in overt or covert opposition to the government of the day, and being flogged by them when they are in power. In fact, when times are good and governments are sailing smoothly, the relationship is exemplary. But when times are bad and governments find themselves in turbulent waters, the relationship turns sour. This implies that the responsibility for good or bad times rests upon governments while the press is simply an instrument to reflect the reality on the ground. When it reflects a stable environment, government-press relations are hunky-dory. When it reflects otherwise, the government is quick to brandish the stick and cite conspiracy theories.
That is exactly what is happening these days. General Musharraf has donned the metaphorical clothes of the dirty politicians that he abhors. But he doesn't want the press to portray him as another such politician in the making. Like a good politician, he is making political speeches full of sound and fury signifying nothing. But he doesn't want the press to extend its usual cynical welcome to him. He is kicking up dust and raking up charges wherever he goes. But he doesn't want the press to touch upon his own ambitions and shortcomings. For a variety of valid historical reasons, the press is generally averse to generals as politicians and General Musharraf is no exception to the rule. But what is specially getting the goat of the press is his bristling self-righteousness and cocky behaviour in which political opportunism is being paraded in the garb of law and patriotism.
The trouble first arose over the general's referendum plans that most reputable journalists don't like for many reasons. It got worse when the press objected to the use of state resources to rent-a-crowd for the general's public rallies. General Musharraf hit back with conspiracy theories. Worse, the loyal Punjab governor went overboard in his political debut in Faisalabad and the resultant police assault on a couple of dozen protesting journalists left many to nurse their wounds. The Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors has issued a stiff note of protest, the first
of its kind in three years, and snubbed the government's efforts to hold an inquiry under a District and Sessions judge instead of a High Court judge. Press clubs across the country have erupted in anger and indignation and the one in Lahore has revived the Press Freedom Committee dormant since Nawaz Sharif's tyrannical time. General Musharraf has apologized for the police excesses in a round about way, but we are left with the unmistakable impression that in his heart of hearts he believes the press got its comeuppance that day and wouldn't be any the worse off for some more of the same. The Punjab governor may think much the same thoughts as his leader but his demeanour suggests he will think twice before stirring this hornets' nest again.
And what of the press? We fear that as General Musharraf wages a series of political battles to achieve his grand national objectives, he shall find the press increasingly on the other side of the fence. This is a natural consequence of his own transition from a clean and upright soldier to an opportunist politician whose pristine mantle is bound to get muddied by the "dirty" politicians he has embraced of late. The challenge before him is to achieve his dubious ends without irrevocably alienating the press. In this context, he would do well to remember a couple of lessons of Pakistani history. First, the domestic press has come of age by linking up with the free international press. It won't be cowed down by anyone. Second, those rulers who are hated by the press are fated to short political careers.
Najam Sethi's editorial in weekly The Friday Times, April 19-25, 2002
Freedom Of Information: a dream yet to materialize (May 2001-May 2002)
Freedom of information is fundamental human right and … the touchstone of all freedoms to which the UN is consecrated. (UN Resolution 59 (1); 14 December 1946)
The significance of and need for Freedom of Information (FOI) can hardly be overemphasized. FOI is a pre-requisite for good governance and an effective instrument for ensuring transparency and accountability in public institutions. It constitutes one of the fundamental human rights, which is gaining impetus in right-based movements worldwide. Pakistan has yet to enact FOI legislation. In the absence of free flow of information media practitioners and media organizations suffer the most as they find it difficult to investigate various issues of public concern.
Freedom of information is a pre-condition for freedom of expression. It is central to promote a culture of transparency, public scrutiny and accountability. It helps citizens make informed political choices in a democratic set up and prudent decisions in the context of market.
Realizing the significance of Freedom of Information, Consumer Rights Commission of Pakistan (CRCP) in collaboration with Liberal Forum, Pakistan had drafted a Model Freedom of Information Act, 2001. The Act was drafted in consultation with all the stakeholders with an extensive consultative process stretching over a period of almost two years. It was drafted keeping in view the specific requirements of Pakistan. This Model Act was presented to the Federal Government (the Ministry of Law) in March 2001 but it still awaits enactment. However there were reports in the media that the enactment of Freedom of Information Act was one of the seventeen conditions for soft Asian development Bank loan for reforms (Dawn, July 26, 2001).
In 2001, CRCP has established an independent desk to work for the furtherance of freedom of information in the country. For this purpose, the "Campaign for Freedom of Information, Pakistan" (FOI-Pakistan) has been launched under the Law and Governance Unit of CRCP. Currently, FOI-Pakistan is carrying out a lobbying, awareness-raising and advocacy campaign across the country. In this regard, a number of talks, seminars and workshops have been and are being organized in the major cities with the political leaders, bar representatives, journalists and civil society organizations. In addition, FOI-Pakistan has successfully established linkages with national, regional and international organization working on the same agenda. FOI-Pakistan is supervised by a national steering committee, which is supported by a national advisory board. The board is dedicated to extend advises on the issues related to FOI and transparency.
In addition, in order to develop linkages with stakeholders at national level, CRCP has been actively lobbying with Pakistan Law Commission and Ministry of Law, Justice, Human Rights and Parliamentary Affairs, and National Reconstruction Bureau.
It is encouraging to note that more and more civil society organizations are realizing the importance of the Freedom of Information related issues. On February 27-28, 2002, Article 19, an international organization working for freedom of information and freedom of expression organized an International Seminar on The Right to Information in Karachi in association with Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), Lahore.
The seminar brought together international law experts, NGO activists, media practitioners, and freedom of information specialists from Pakistan and South Asia. The seminar focused on the need of legislation to protect the right to information. CRCP shared its ongoing national advocacy and lobbying plan and efforts for the enactment and promotion of freedom of information in Pakistan.
The lobbying efforts with the Ministry of Law and media have brought FOI in the national focus. The Ministry of Law and National Reconstruction Bureau have taken up the issue, however, they are in process of collecting data and undertaking necessary background work.
On March 11, 2002 CRCP organized the fourth national consumer walk to commemorate World Consumer Rights Day. In addition to highlighting the state of consumer rights in Pakistan, the participants demanded the government to enact Model Freedom of Information Act, 2001.
Keeping in view the importance of creating an interface between the political parties and the citizens to put the FOI on the agenda of the political parties, CRCP convened an all political parties consultation on FOI in Islamabad on March 27, 2002. Delegates of 29 political parties and representatives of 12 bar councils and associations had gathered as speakers to give their inputs on the subject. District administration and government authorities forcibly stopped the consultation by locking the seminar venue and deploying police. It was done on plea of security risk. This reflects the dismal state of affairs wherein the government authorities did not allow a peaceful dialogue between the citizens and political parties on a neutral but crucial issue. The event attracted a wide coverage by the media, which underscored the need of FOI legislation in the country. FOI-Pakistan expressed its resolve to continue with its efforts for the enactment of FOI legislation. It is encouraging to note that FOI is now high on the agenda of policy community and civil society organizations.
Murder and Mayhem Rule in Afghanistan
The war against terrorism led by the United States in Afghanistan was the biggest draw for world journalists anywhere. With an estimated 1,200 journalists converging, before, during and after the war that ousted the Taliban, the dangers of the conflict manifested themselves in the deaths of as many as eight scribes.
Even after the Taliban and suspected Al Qaeda groups were routed from most of Afghanistan and an internationally recognised administration led by Hamid Karzai installed in Kabul, which controls nearly all of the country, the country remains a dangerous place for journalists, especially foreign.
On March 6, 2002, the British-led International Security Assistance Force warned reporters of a credible threat to kidnap foreign journalists.
"Information about threats come and go all the time, but this is the first one assessed as credible enough to pass on to journalists, " the CNN quoted Lt Col Neal Peckham of ISAF as saying.
Peckham said that the kidnap plans concerned journalists in Kabul. However, an ISAF press officer said the threat was not specific to any region of Afghanistan, according to AFP.
He advised the journalists to "maintain extra vigilance and consider their movements." He added that the threat appears to be related to the US-led offensive against Taliban and Al-Qaeda fighters.
On March 4, 2002, Toronto Star reporter Kathleen Kenna was seriously injured when an assailant threw an explosive device into her car, on the road between Kabul and Gardez, in Paktia province.
The incident occurred shortly after two gunmen nearby were overheard discussing whether to take a group of foreign journalists hostage, according to The Washington Post.
Interestingly, the Western media has accused American forces in Afghanistan of not only obstructing their work but in some cases also of causing them grievous
On April 10, 2002, Afghan fighters in Sorobi district assaulted Boston Globe translator Ebadullah Ebadi, 70 km east of Kabul. The assault occurred within view of the US Special Services soldiers, who did not intervene to stop the beating. The incident occurred when Ebadi and Globe reporter Indira Lakshmanan approached a convoy of about 10 vehicles carrying US forces and Afghan fighters loyal to Jalalabad commander Hazrat Ali. A group of the Afghan fighters blocked the pair from continuing toward the American soldiers.
According to the Globe, as an interview request was being delivered to the American soldiers, one of whom gestured toward a young Afghan soldier, who sprinted toward the visitors and roughly shoved Ebadi.
The soldier unlatched the safety on his rifle while other soldiers began punching Ebadi in the face and kicking him. Another soldier slapped Ebadi, knocking off his glasses, while the first soldier beat him with his rifle. The incident ended when another soldier stopped the beating.
The Council for Protection of Journalists said this was the third case documented by it in which journalists have been forcibly prevented from covering US military activities in Afghanistan. Afghan tribal fighters harassed and detained three photojournalists at the behest of US Special Forces soldiers who did not want to be photographed.
Washington Post reporter Doug Struck was threatened at gunpoint by US soldiers and barred from the site of a US missile strike in eastern Afghanistan that killed a
group of civilians.
During the Taliban rule, when the United States launched massive air strikes to oust the Taliban and target Al Qaeda, international journalists had a mixed experience when they were both helped and harassed at various times.
Soon after 9/11, the Taliban ordered all foreigners, including journalists, to leave Afghanistan. A large contingent of foreign correspondents were in the country in September covering a high-profile trial of eight foreign aid workers accused of attempting to convert Muslims to Christianity.
In the weeks after the 9/11 attacks in the US, not many journalists were able to reach Taliban-held territories and report from there as the Taliban had warned them to keep out.
Taliban arrested Sunday Express reporter Yvonne Ridley who sneaked into Afghanistan from Pakistan camouflaged in a burqa.She was held for 10 days in Jalalabad and Kabul and threatened with espionage charges before being released. On September 9, 2001, French reporter Michel Peyrard and two Pakistani guides were nabbed as they tried to do a Ridley. They too were freed a few days later.
The Taliban changed their policy on October 13, 2001 when they invited and ferried a group of foreign journalists to a village in eastern Afghanistan, damaged in US air strikes. The journalists were then allowed to report from Jalalabad under Taliban supervision.
Chronology of Events Between May 3, 2001 and May 3, 2002
* September 28, 2001
Taliban soldiers arrested Sunday Express correspondent Yvonne Ridley, along with two Afghan guides in the village of Dour Baba, 15 km from the Pakistani border. She was imprisoned for entering without a visa and charged with spying before being freed 10 days later.
* October 9, 2001
Taliban arrested French journalist Michel Peyrard and two Pakistani nationals working as his guides - Mohammed Khan and Mukkaram Khan - 20 miles from Jalalabad. Peyrard, who was disguised in a burqa at the time of his arrest, was freed on November 3. The guides were released a week later.
* October 22, 2001
The Taliban arrested Japanese freelance journalist Daigen Yanagida in Asadabad after he entered Afghanistan without a visa. He was imprisoned for nearly a month in Jalalabad before being freed on November 20.
* November 7, 2001
Soldiers of Northern Alliance expelled Al-Jazeera reporter Ali Al-Arab to Tajikistan after being told Arabs were not welcome in Alliance areas.
* November 11, 2001
Three journalists were killed when Taliban forces fired on a convoy of Northern Alliance in which they were traveling in northern Afghanistan. Those killed were Johanne Sutton, a reporter for Radio France Internationale, Pierre Billaud, a reporter for Radio Television Luxembourg and Volker Handloik, a freelance reporter on assignment for the German news magazine Stern.
* November 13, 2001
The office of Al-Jazeera in Kabul was hit by American bombing in Kabul.
* November 18, 2001
Four journalists were seized by unknown armed men while traveling between Jalalabad and Kabul and murdered. The journalists were Azizullah Haidari, an Afghan-born photographer for Reuters, Harry Burton, an Australian television cameraman for Reuters, Julio Fuentes, a Spanish correspondent for the Madrid-based newspaper El Mundo and Maria Grazia Cutuli, an Italian journalist for the Milan-based newspaper Corriere della Sera. The journalists were traveling through eastern Nangarhar province at the head of a convoy of six vehicles when they were stopped by a group of armed men who dragged the four out of the front two cars, marched them into the surrounding hills, and executed them using Kalashnikov rifles.
* November 22, 2001
Taliban officials expelled about 100 foreign journalists from Afghanistan after being invited to visit areas of the country still under Taliban control. Two days earlier they entered Spin Boldak, a town near the Pakistani border, after obtaining visas from the Taliban.
* November 24, 2001
Andrea Catherwood, a reporter for British television ITN, was seriously injured by shrapnel from a grenade set off by a Taliban soldier outside the Qala-i-Jangi fort. The explosion occurred while Northern Alliance soldiers were searching Taliban troops who had surrendered.
* November 25, 2001
Taliban prisoners attacked an unidentified British journalist who was conducting interviews in the Qala-i-Jangi fort outside Mazar-i-Sharif, according to an account by Time magazine reporter Alex Perry. The reporter was then rescued and driven away in a taxi.
* November 27, 2001
Ulf Strömberg, a cameraman for Swedish channel TV4 was murdered during a robbery at the house in Taloqan where he and several other journalists were staying. The intruders took cash and equipment from two other journalists and fired when Strömberg tried to slam the door of his room where they were headed. He was hit in the chest by a bullet fired through the door.
* December 20, 2001
Afghan tribal fighters harassed and detained three foreign photojournalists, apparently at the behest of US Special Forces soldiers who did not want to be photographed.
* February 10, 2002
Washington Post reporter Doug Struck was threatened at gunpoint by US soldiers and barred from the site of a US missile strike in eastern Afghanistan that killed a group of civilians.
* March 4, 2002
Toronto Star Reporter Kathleen Kenna was seriously injured in an ambush by unidentified gunmen as she, along with her husband Hadi Dadashian, Toronto Star photographer Bernard Weil and an Afghan driver were travelling on the main road from Kabul to Gardez.
* April 4, 2002
Toronto Star Reporter Kathleen Kenna was seriously injured in an ambush by unidentified gunmen as she, along with her husband Hadi Dadashian, Toronto Star photographer Bernard Weil and an Afghan driver were travelling on the main road from Kabul to Gardez.
Radio: A Lifeline For Afghans
With virtually a negligible outreach of television and next to no newspapers or Internet in a largely illiterate Afghanistan, radio is the most vital source of news and information for a vast majority of the country. The BBC World Service has reinforced its mediumwave transmissions, with an additional frequency, serving a large part of Afghanistan. Shortwave transmissions to the region in Pashto and Persian - the key languages of the region - have also been recently expanded.
BBC news and current affairs content in the usually mixed schedules of each language service have been boosted. Radio France Internationale (RFI) has added an extra half-hour of programmes in Persian targeted at Afghanistan and the surrounding region.
Voice of America (VOA) has expanded news broadcasts in Dari, Persian and Pashto. However, it came under pressure from the US Department of State not to air a story that included parts of a rare interview with Taliban leader Mullah Omar. VOA ignored the pressure.
A BBC survey carried out before the US air strikes in Afghanistan indicated that 72 per cent of Pashto and 62 per cent of Persian speakers in Afghanistan listen daily to the BBC World Service. The total population of Afghanistan is estimated at 26 million.
Other significant broadcasts in Pashto and Dari to Afghanistan include Radio Pakistan, China Radio International, All India Radio, Deutsche Welle, Radio Cairo, Voice of Iran, Voice of Russia, Tajik Radio and Radio Tashkent (Uzbekistan). There are also a number of radio stations run by Afghan expatriates, mainly in North America, which broadcast in Pashto and Dari.
Before the air strikes by the US-led international coalition forces ousted the Taliban from power and opened the country to the world, the Afghan media was seriously restricted in freedom of expression and range.
Soon after coming to power in 1996, the Taliban renamed Radio Afghanistan as Radio Shariah, which began espousing the fundamentalist values of the new rulers. The Taliban banned television as a "source of moral corruption." Music, photography, filming and Internet were also banned.
There were only two daily newspapers, both Taliban-run: One was the Pashto-language "Shariah" and the other was the English-language "Kabul Times." All news came from the government and official news agencies.
The Taliban's main national news agency was the Bakhtar Information Agency. Afghan Islamic Press, a Pashto-language news agency based in the Pakistan border town of Peshawar, provided good coverage of breaking news. The Taliban had also banned sale of books and magazines published abroad, depriving Afghans of mostly Pakistani journals. The only foreign newspaper authorised by Taliban was "Zarbe Momin," an Urdu-language weekly published from Karachi, Pakistan, which supported the Taliban cause.
Al-Jazeera, a pan-Arab satellite TV channel based in Qatar, known for its hard-hitting and fast coverage, was the only foreign broadcaster permitted in Kabul
until the US air strikes began in October 2001.
After the 9/11 attacks, the Taliban relied on Al-Jazeera to communicate with the world. As the only foreign TV bureau in Kabul, Al-Jazeera could air exclusive footage showing Afghan demonstrators attacking and setting fire to the US embassy on September 26, 2001.
The Taliban allowed only three Afghan reporters to work in Kabul for foreign news agencies: Amir Shah of AP, Mohammad Azam of AFP and Syed Salahuddin of Reuters.
Before the US air strikes, "resistance media" controlled by the Northern Alliance was also a key source of news from within Afghanistan. While there were no Alliance-run radio stations, news was broadcast by loudspeakers in towns close to Kabul, which was under the control of the Taliban.
Northern Alliance also ran an online Radio Pyam-e-Mujahid, which broadcasted via the Internet three days a week in Pashto and Dari languages. The American senate has also passed a bill that authorizes the establishment of a "Radio Free Afghanistan" to provide news broadcasts in Dari and Pashto for the people of Afghanistan.
When the air strikes broke out and the Taliban warned all foreign journalists to stay out, Northern Alliance provided crucial passage into Afghanistan for foreign journalists from neighbouring Tajikistan. Over 250 foreign journalists entered from there.
They said it:
"If someone goes inside Afghanistan without proper identification, we will also take action against the particular agency or network sponsoring that person. Advise your own colleagues not to be adventurous. " - Pakistani Foreign Office Spokesman Riaz Khan on Oct 13, 2001.
"There is a credible threat to kidnap foreign journalists [in Afghanistan] ." -Lt Col Neal Peckham of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) on March 6, 2002
"The text [of a draft media law for Afghanistan] reveals a number of serious flaws which, if enacted, would have a deleterious impact on the free flow of information and the freedom of the media to practice its profession." -The International Press Institute (IPI), Vienna, in a letter to Chairman Afghan Interim Government Hamid Karzai on March 14, 2002 "Immediate threats to war reporters [in Afghanistan] include being targeted by armed factions, getting caught in the crossfire, or stepping on a land mine." -Executive Director Committee for Protection of Journalists Ann Cooper in a statement on December 13, 2001.
"War is no justification for murder." - Executive Director CPJ Ann Cooper in a statement on November 19, 2001 referring to murder of Azizullah Haidari of Reuters, Harry Burton of Reuters, Julio Fuentes of El Mundo and Maria Grazia Cutuli of Corriere della Sera.
"Return in a time of peace. You are not welcome in our area." -a Northern Alliance official to Al-Jazeera correspondent Ali Al-Arab, expelling him from Afghanistan to Tajikistan on November 8, 2001.
"Any journalist entering Afghanistan will be treated like an American soldier." -Taliban intelligence chief Mullah Taj Meer on October 10, 2001.
"It was not a silly stunt, I was trying to find out what Afghans thought about the situation."- Sunday Express correspondent Yvonne Ridley on October 9, 2001 after being freed from a 10-day detention by Taliban after she was captured sneaking into Afghanistan in a burqa without a visa.
Afghan Media: New Freedoms, Old Fears
In February 9, 2002, Afghanistan entered a new era of media freedoms as the Hamid Karzai interim administration announced a new law claiming to guarantee freedom of the press in the country. The law gives written guarantees for a free press, and Karzai said it left Afghan journalists free to criticise the government. "People can have their newspapers, people can have their radios and they can write things, they can criticise us as much as they want," he said.
The new law formally ended years of censorship and a total ban on free speech under the ousted Taliban. Television was banned while radio and print offered little more than propaganda for the former regime. Any form of criticism was ruthlessly suppressed.
Although broadcasting and most papers still remain state-controlled in Afghanistan, a number of independent magazines are now available on the streets of Kabul and some of the other bigger towns.
Some writers have already started asking questions about corruption and accountability but ensuring such freedom of expression in a country where local warlords control many of the provinces can prove a major test of the Karzai administration. While it is too early to say whether the new law will promote and help tolerate healthy criticism of authority, there already have been adverse reactions to the law from international media organisations.
For example, the Vienna-based International Press Institute (IPI) says the law contains "serious flaws" that could have a harmful effect on freedom of expression. In a letter to Karzai, it said the law needs a "radical re-assessment" for a number of reasons.
For one, it allows only Afghan citizens to print publications, a restriction that would weaken the local media, IPI argues, adding that a ban on foreign investment in Afghan media could leave local outlets too weak to withstand potential government pressure during the transition period and beyond.
IPI says the law also requires private media owners to obtain permission from the government to operate without stating the criteria for granting or denying such permission, and there is no provision which allows legal entities such as companies to enjoy private ownership.
In addition, the law gives the government control over the distribution of foreign publications. One example of how the law can go against the interests of journalists surfaced on April 2, 2002 at a joint press conference in Kabul by Karzai and visiting Pakistan President Gen Pervez Musharraf. Kabir Omarzai, who works for Afghanistan' s national radio and television network, was suspended from his duties for an unspecified length of time after he asked both leaders a question about the border problem between the two countries.
Karzai interrupted the journalist in mid-sentence and refused to reply. Afghan television cut the incident from its report on the press conference. Karzai asked his minister of information, Rahim Makhdoom, to sanction Omarzai, which he promptly did. This was the first time since the fall of the Taliban than an Afghan journalist was penalised for simply exercising the right to inform despite the fact that upon taking office on December 22, 2001, Karzai declared: "Freedom of expression and of belief is each and every Afghan citizen's right, and it is our responsibility to defend that right."
With regard to the print media, the new Afghan law creates a complicated registration and licensing system for the press. Says IPI, "This system is open to serious abuse and amounts to a licensing of individual journalists. " After setting out the registration system, the draft law states that any offences not provided for within the law in question shall be subject to Shariah law. Because of this, journalists can find themselves exposed to disproportionate penalties.
In Article 3 of the law, the media are separated out into a series of categories, one of which defines the "private media" as outlets belonging to a self-financed "individual who has received permission."
IPI views the provision as a blatant breach of the internationally accepted principle that the media do not need permission to practice their profession. In addition, there would appear to be no provision that allows legal entities such as companies to enjoy private ownership.
Another serious of problem concerns printing in the country. According to Articles 4 and 11 of the law, only citizens of Afghanistan may print publications. Although this is similar to the approach in a number of other democratic countries, there is a generally held consensus that partial foreign investment should be allowed. IPI takes the view that foreign investment is vital to the success of the Afghani media and believes it would give the local media the strength to withstand possible government pressure during the transition period and beyond.
Regarding media owners, the draft law states that permission is needed from the ministry. While this is a flagrant breach of the media's autonomy and is thoroughly objectionable, the draft law fails to state the criteria for granting or withholding such permission.
Furthermore, the appeals procedure following the original decision of the ministry is also deeply flawed because the appeal panel includes an individual from the ministry. As a result, the ministry will have a second opportunity to influence decision-making and in effect be sitting in judgement of it. In Article 24, the draft law states that the "Concessionaire" as a guarantee against future fines must place unspecified amounts on deposit. Such a system is open to considerable abuse and would serve as a financial barrier, thus halting the development of the media in Afghanistan.
Elsewhere, Article 37 provides for an unacceptable warning system leading to the suspension or cancellation of a publication' s "concession. " In the opinion of IPI, this will have a chilling effect on the media and will once again inhibit the growth of the media in the country.
Another deeply worrying provision concerns the censorship of foreign media. According to Article 40, the distribution of foreign publications is subject to prior permission from the ministry. Once again this is a repressive measure, which will imperil the free flow of information in Afghanistan.
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