Sunday, March 4, 2012

"Censor" Republic of Pakistan.

"The authorities here are big fans of China and how it filters the Internet," said Sana Saleem, chief executive of Bolo Bhi, a group that campaigns against restrictions on the Internet. "They overlook the fact that China is an autocratic regime and we are a democracy." "What makes this kind of censorship so insidious is that they always use national security, pornography or blasphemy as an explanation for blocking other kinds of speech," Ms. Saleem said, adding that her site had been blocked for several months in 2010 when it made reference to a ban on Facebook. Access to the social networking service had been restricted because of a page featuring a competition to draw the prophet Mohammed - something that is considered blasphemous by Muslims. The Technology Ministry's Research and Development Fund says in its tender that the Internet filtering and blocking system will be "indigenously developed," but campaigners like Ms. Saleem say they think it is likely the agency will try to adapt Western technology for the purpose. To try to prevent this from happening, Ms. Saleem wrote to the chief executives of eight international companies that make Net filtering technology, asking them to make a public commitment not to apply for the Pakistani grant. On Friday, one of them, Websense, which is based in San Diego, responded, declaring in a statement on its Web site that it would not seek the contract. "Broad government censorship of citizen access to the Internet is morally wrong," Websense said. "We further believe that any company whose products are currently being used for government-imposed censorship should remove their technology so that it is not used in this way by oppressive governments." Websense had previously withdrawn the use of its technology from Yemen after facing accusations from the OpenNet Initiative, a U.S.-Canadian academic group, and other organizations that it had been used by the government of that country to stifle political expression on the Internet. REFERENCES: Pakistan Builds Web Wall Out in the Open By ERIC PFANNER Published: March 03, 2012 Quotes of the Day SANA SALEEM,26174,2108224,00.html

Bolo Bhi Sana Saleem Jehan Ara talk about Pakistan Internet Censorship Campaign

Censorship in Pakistan has a long history and its first victim being the founder of the nation Mohammad Ali Jinnah. On 11 August 1947 when he delivered his first speech “You are free, you are free to go to your temples…..” before the Constituent Assembly; within hours some shadowy figures became active and “tried to have some secularist passages of the speech blacked out in the press” (Press In Chains P. 35-39) But luckily the then editor Dawn Altaf Hussain came in their way and threatened to go to Quaid. So the attempt to muzzle Qauid’s voice failed. The second major attack was the closure of illustrious Civil & Military Gazette(C&MG) in 1949 after it carried a story by its Delhi correspondent that Pakistan and India are devising a formula to partition Kashmir. Pakistan denied the report so the paper published the denial, regretted the report and fired the correspondent. But on 6th May 1949, 16 West Pakistan newspapers carried a joint editorial by the title of “TREASON” and asked government to suspend the (C&MG) publication “for a suitable period.” The East Pakistani editors “refused to join the chorus” and the government closed the paper for a period of six month and the paper where once writers like Rudyard Kipling (1882-1887) had worked never recovered from the closure. Pakistan was perceived by Mohammad Ali Jinnah as a secular, democratic welfare state, but ironically even when Jinnah was alive his speeches were censored by the Radio Pakistan on the instructions of bigots – and it has been documented by eminent journalist Zamir Niazi in his valuable book, “Press in Chains”. REFERENCES: Press in Chains: History of media gagging in Pakistan Pakistan transformed into a brutalised society Shahid Husain Thursday, January 05, 2012 ‘Censoring the Quaid’ by Dr M. Sarwar, Aug 7, 1991 The Frontier Post) Censoring the Quaid, August 7, 1991

Internet Censorship in Alleged Democratic Pakistan (Bottom Line with Absar Alam 25/3/12)

"Censorship in Pakistani Urdu Textbooks", Ajmal Kamal, The Annual of Urdu Studies, Vol.10 (1995), pp. 125-133, Center for South Asia, University of Wisconsin, Madison

Last month, Pakistan's government put out requests for proposals for a massive, centralized, Internet censorship system. Explaining that "ISPs and backbone providers have expressed their inability to block millions of undesirable web sites using current manual blocking systems," the state-run National Information Communications Technology Research and Development Fund said it therefore requires "a national URL filtering and blocking system." The new system would need to handle "up to 50 million [blacklisted] URLs," and would operate across the entire Pakistani Internet. The research fund intends the system to be designed and built within the country, "by companies, vendors, academia and/or research organizations with proven track record." Fifty million URLs is quite a tall order -- but not, sadly, for the demands of an Internet censorware device. Censorship, managed by routers and software built by a number of companies, scales rather easily to such demands. Companies like McAfee sell blocking systems for corporate intranets with databases in excess of 25 million web addresses. Such databases have been re-purposed for national firewalls in countries like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for many years. It is democratic oversight which fails to scale to such numbers. Databases of millions of sites inevitably include "false positives" -- sites that should never have been included, even on the terms of the blacklist. That's why corporate blocks have been shown to include feminist and gay rights sites under "pornography," as well as high-profile blogging and micro-blogging sites like Twitter and LiveJournal as "dating" websites. When these databases are applied to national firewalls, such sites disappear from general access. Worse, it's impossible for citizens to oversee such blocking systems to prevent over-censorship, including of news sites, by those in power. Pakistan's current censorship policy is unclear, but already sites such as the Baloch Hal and others carrying news about Baluchistan -- a contested region of Pakistan with a number of secessionist groups -- are blocked. Any future blacklist will undoubtedly be kept secret. And the centralized nature of the database means that the government will be able to censor sites swiftly, with no checks and balances. In the RFP's technical description, there's no room for any civic oversight. Even the small steps taken by some Pakistani ISPs to automate Internet censorship has led to over-blocking. Last year, a blocking system introduced by one telecommunications company, Mobitel, meant that Pakistani Internet users could not even search for the name of Asif Al Zardari, their own president. An unchecked, centrally-controlled, censorship regime with such vast capacity is a recipe for disaster for local online press freedom. Companies, vendors, and academics thinking of applying for the role would be complicit in building a system that could easily -- and judging on past behavior, would inevitably -- be misused by the Pakistan government. REFERENCE: Pakistan's excessive Internet censorship plans By Danny O’Brien/CPJ Internet Advocacy Coordinator March 1, 2012 5:35 PM ET

What is not Censored in Pakistan rather these kind of Threats to Minorities are usually encouraged

BBC Urdu - GEO TV - Ahmadiyya Community

In a program aired on 7 September 2008 the anchor of the religious program 'Alam Online', Dr. Amir Liaquat Hussain--also former federal minister for religious affairs--declared the murder of Ahmadi sect members to be necessary (Wajib ul Qatal) according to Islamic teachings, because its followers don't believe in the last prophet, Mohammad, peace be upon him. Dr. Amir repeated his instruction several times, urging fundamentalists Muslims to kill without fear. While on air the anchor person also pressured the other two Islamic scholars (from two different sects) on the program to support the statement. This resulted in a unanimous decision among the scholars, on air during a popular television show, to urge lynching with the intent to kill. This was not a one-off. On September 9, Mr. Hussain answered a query with the comment that blasphemers are liable to be put to death. According to the information received, at 1:15pm on September 8, 18 hours after the broadcast, six persons entered the Fazle Umer Clinic, a two-story hospital at Mirpur Khas city and two of them went to the second floor and started pressuring 45 year-old Dr. Abdul Manan Siddiqui to come downstairs to attend to a patient in crisis. Dr. Manan left his office and descended into an ambush. He was shot 11 times and died on the spot. His private guard was also shot and is in a serious condition. A woman was also injured by firing. The killers remained at the hospital until the doctor was declared dead, then they walked out of the building's front entrance. Police registered the killers as unknown. On September 9, 48 hours after the broadcast, Mr. Yousaf, a 75 year-old rice trader and district chief of the Ahmadi sect was killed on his way to prayer in Nawab Shah, Sindh province. Yousaf was fired on from people on motor bikes, and sustained three bullet wounds. He died on the way to the hospital. The assailants had taken a route past a police station. No one was arrested. The Ahmadi sect was declared non-Islamic sect on September 7, 1974, through a constitutional amendment, and was labeled a minority sect. Since then, there has been open hatred of the sect by certain Islamic circles and fundamentalists across the Muslim world, and sect members suffer widespread discrimination. Ahmadi followers are not allowed to bury their dead in the ordinary grave yards of Muslims, and many of those buried before 1974 were shifted by fundamentalists. Since 1984 (when statistics have been compiled) around 93 Ahmadis have been killed for their allegiance to their sect, with four killed so far this year, including Dr. Ghulam Sarwar on March 19 in Faisalabad, Punjab province and Mr. Basharat Mughal on February 24 in Karachi. The Dr. Siddiqui is the 15th medical doctor killed since 1984. REFERENCES: PAKISTAN: Two persons murdered after an anchor person proposed the widespread lynching of Ahmadi sect followers September 10, 2008 PAKISTAN: No action taken against Geo TV presenter who incited Muslims to murder members of Pakistan minority on air September 18, 2008 Ahmadi massacre silence is dispiriting The virtual conspiracy of silence after the murder of 94 Ahmadis in Pakistan exposes the oppression suffered by the sect Declan Walsh, Monday 7 June 2010 14.59 BST

"Censorship in Pakistani Urdu Textbooks", Ajmal Kamal, The Annual of Urdu Studies, Vol.10 (1995), pp. 125-133, Center for South Asia, University of Wisconsin, Madison

Pakistani Authors Reflect on Censorship in Pakistan

Media censorship is nothing new in Pakistan, where military dictators come and go. But newly proposed rules to ban TV programming deemed “against the national interest” spring from an unlikely source: a civilian government that has prided itself on inching the country toward democracy over the past four years. The proposals were issued last month by a media regulatory body that says it is responding to public complaints about an explosion of increasingly shrill, fact-twisting and privacy-invading cable news shows. But the draft measures also take pointed aim at coverage that criticizes “the organs of the state” or undermines Pakistan’s “solidarity as an independent and sovereign country.” Besides condemning the restrictions as impossibly vague, some foes of censorship see the powerful hand of Pakistan’s military behind them. Any ban on purported anti-state news would extend to coverage of the secessionist movement in Baluchistan, a province where the army and internal intelligence agencies are accused of extrajudicial killings of nationalists. Last week the interior minister, Rehman Malik, asked cable news channels to stop booking Baluch separatist leaders on talk shows, saying the rebels were spreading propaganda about forced disappearances. Government officials say the proposed restrictions are not meant to intimidate or impose censorship on the media but are instead intended to prod the raucous TV news industry to regulate itself. “You have to define certain rules for their own betterment,” Firdous Ashiq Awan, the minister of information and broadcasting, said in an interview. “It’s not that government wants it; the whole nation wants it. There must be some rules and regulations.” REFERENCE: Pakistan proposes curbs on raucous media By Richard Leiby, Published: March 3, 2012

"Censorship in Pakistani Urdu Textbooks", Ajmal Kamal, The Annual of Urdu Studies, Vol.10 (1995), pp. 125-133, Center for South Asia, University of Wisconsin, Madison

The Self-Censorship of Pakistani Media

The prospect of such government intrusion unnerves free-speech advocates, who have watched an emboldened media take on civilian as well as military leaders in recent years. The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority, which operates under the information minister, contends that its proposals are benign, but the agency has the power to punish alleged violations by imposing fines and pulling broadcast licenses.
“The government’s goal is not to educate the media or the public,” said Hamza Farooq, a Karachi journalist who has worked at CNBC Pakistan and Geo TV, a leading broadcaster. “They are just trying to pressure the media.” He and others pointed out that the release of the proposed rules coincides with stepped-up coverage of the long-running Baluch insurgency. Media, politicians and judges also have become more critical of the military and its Inter-Services Intelligence spy agency, calling on them to account for “missing persons” in the restive province and elsewhere. “There is a deep appetite for control, both in civilian government and the military establishment, and obviously they are looking for a way to exercise some control,” said influential Geo TV anchor Kamran Khan. “This becomes a tool in their hands. It is not only in Pakistan but in China and Syria — whenever they want to escape accountability and criticism.” Awan, the information minister, said Baluchis enjoy the same rights of free speech as everyone else in Pakistan. But she maintained that content restrictions are in the national interest: “We cannot compromise on the sovereignty of our country. That is our national duty and obligation.” REFERENCE: Pakistan proposes curbs on raucous media By Richard Leiby, Published: March 3, 2012

"Censorship in Pakistani Urdu Textbooks", Ajmal Kamal, The Annual of Urdu Studies, Vol.10 (1995), pp. 125-133, Center for South Asia, University of Wisconsin, Madison

Embedded Journalists in Pakistan Face Severe Restrictions

Five years ago, Pakistan’s then-president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, blacked out cable shows in a crackdown on those protesting his consolidation of power, which included suspending the constitution, arresting political foes and removing the chief justice of the Supreme Court. The bans were imposed by PEMRA, the same agency now promulgating the content restrictions. Yet it is Musharraf whom journalists frequently credit with creating a thriving independent media through deregulation. A decade ago, Pakistan had just one TV channel — the official one. Now there are 89, pumping out talk shows, religious programs, entertainment and news — and opinion mongering passed off as news. The intense competition has sparked hysterical coverage that PEMRA says should be tamped down. One proposal recommends: “Gloomy, sensational, or alarming details not essential to factual reporting shall not be aired as part of [a] news-bulletin.” Officials say the impetus for the regulatory drive was a January stunt by a Karachi television host who dispatched a band of middle-aged women to a park to determine whether spooning young couples there were married or engaged or had their parents’ permission to date. Local media dubbed the hectoring inquisitors the “vigil-aunties.” The show infuriated a public already sick of undercover TV investigations and other invasions of privacy. The host, Maya Khan of Samaa TV, was fired, but later she said all the love-struck couples on the program were actors — a subterfuge straight out of the American reality-show playbook. REFERENCE: Pakistan proposes curbs on raucous media By Richard Leiby, Published: March 3, 2012

Media as political force

Front Line - 15th February 2012

Kamran Shahid: besides being verbally abused Talal Bugti was threatened with murder - Talal Bugti was a thousands time better behaved than the guest. Both didn't speak the same way. Front Line - 15th February 2012

In Pakistan, committees of volunteer media monitors unaffiliated with the government take public complaints about programming via a toll-free hotline. When PEMRA requested that committee members critique the draft guidelines, some quit, not wanting anything to do with government censorship. Last week, committee members submitted clause-by-clause objections, but the regulators ignored those that involved prohibitions against criticism of the state. “National interest — nobody knows what it is,” said Marvi Sirmed, a columnist who said she will remain a volunteer to work against government overreach. “We don’t want any government entity to implement this mechanism.” Since deregulation, some arms of the fourth estate here have become so rich through cross-ownership of newspapers, radio and TV outlets that they have become political forces in their own right. And despite their faults, the cable news shows are widely regarded as protectors of Pakistan’s fragile democracy. “The power of media is enormous,” said anchor Faisal Rehman of Waqt TV. “They cannot stop it even if they tried.” REFERENCE: Pakistan proposes curbs on raucous media By Richard Leiby, Published: March 3, 2012

Pakistan is the only country where a sitting Judge passes Hate Comment against Minority Community and these are not censored rather encouraged

ISLAMABAD: A reported statement by Lahore High Court Chief Justice (CJ) Khawaja Muhammad Sharif that the Hindu community was funding terrorism in Pakistan, irked members of the National Assembly, as many of whom joined minority members and walked out in protest. The lawmakers also demanded Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry take suo motu notice of the CJ’s remarks. Ramesh Lal, a minority lawmaker from the Pakistan People’s Party, raised the issue on a point of order and censured the CJ’s remarks, saying the Hindu community in Pakistan was as patriotic as the rest of the country and the remarks were highly uncalled for. Lal announced a token walkout and was joined by a few other members belonging to different parties, including the Awami National Party. He said the remarks hurt the over three million Hindus in Pakistan, adding the statement was against national unity. Labour and Manpower Minister Khursheed Shah tried to defend the CJ, saying he could not have made such a statement and might have referred to India and not the Hindu community. REFERENCE: LHC CJ’s remarks irk NA members Wednesday, March 17, 2010

BARELY days after the Punjab chief minister was caught playing to the Taliban gallery, another high official from the province is in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons. This time, Lahore High Court Chief Justice Khawaja Mohammad Sharif has sparked outrage for reportedly saying that Hindus were responsible for financing acts of terrorism in Pakistan. The remarks came while the judge was hearing two identical petitions against the possible extradition of Afghan Taliban suspects. It may well have been a slip of the tongue by Mr Sharif, who might have mistakenly said ‘Hindu’ instead of ‘India’ — nevertheless it was a tasteless remark to say the least. Although such remarks warrant criticism what makes them worse is the position of the person who makes them. These sort of comments are the last thing one expects to hear from a judge, that too the chief justice of a provincial high court. What sort of message are we sending to our minorities, as well as to the world, when the holder of such a respected public office makes comments that come across as thoughtless? The Hindu members of the National Assembly walked out of the house on Tuesday to protest the remarks. The members said the comments had hurt the feelings of Pakistani Hindus — and there is no doubt that they had. REFERENCE: Tactless remarks Dawn Editorial Thursday, 18 Mar, 2010

ISLAMABAD, March 16: It was a rare, judge’s turn to be judged in the National Assembly on Tuesday as Hindu members staged a walkout to protest at reported remarks by the Lahore High Court (LHC) chief justice alleging Hindu financing of terror attacks in the country. Some members of the Awami National Party too joined the first walkout against the judiciary in Pakistan’s parliament before the protesters were brought back to hear words of sympathy for the injured sentiments and some advice for judges to focus on delivering justice rather than publicity despite a government minister’s statement that the remark by Justice Khawaja Mohammad Sharif while hearing a case in Lahore on Thursday seemed to be “a slip of the tongue”. The protest was the second raised in the house over press reports in as many days after sharp criticism of Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif over his appeal to Taliban in a speech to a seminar in Lahore on Sunday to spare his province terror attacks because of some shared views with his PML-N party. PPP’s Hindu member Romesh Lal, who raised the issue, said sentiments of an estimated four million Pakistani Hindus had been injured by the LHC chief justice’s remarks, as reported in a section of the press, that while terrorist bomb blasts were being carried out by Muslims, “money used for this came from Hindus”. The member said if a country was suspected of sponsoring such attacks it should be named, but blame should not be put on just Hindus who, he said, were as good patriots as other Pakistanis. While drawing attention of President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani to what he called worry caused to Hindus, he appealed to Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry to take suo motu notice of Justice Sharif’s remarks. As Inter-Provincial Coordination Minister Pir Aftab Shah Jilani and some other members of the ruling PPP went out of the chamber to persuade the protesters to return, party chief whip and Labour and Manpower Minister Khurshid Ahmed Shah told the house the judge seemed to be blaming India for financing the Taliban rather Hindus, adding he was sure a clarification would come “by tomorrow”. PML-N’s Rashid Akbar Niwani said judges should devote to dispensation of justice instead of seeking publicity as he also advised the media to exercise “restraint”, particularly blasting unspecified television anchorpersons who, he said, should also be held accountable for their earnings together with “heads of (government) institutions” as often-maligned elected politicians. REFERENCE: A judge is judged in NA, with walkout By Raja Asghar Wednesday, 17 Mar, 2010

Jang Group & GEO TV Murdered Salman Taseer (Abbas Athar BBC)

On January 6, around 150 members of civil society gathered at the Karachi Press Club for a vigil in memory of the late Governor. It was a fairly decent turn out, especially considering the security risks involved. We took to the streets and went around the Press Club with candles in our hands, demanding an end to this state of lawlessness. Keeping in line with the idea of a peaceful protest, none of the protestors called out for death or blood but instead, demanded justice and respect for the deceased. Even so, there were only 150 of us when there should have been thousands more. Whether you stand for the blasphemy law or against it, this blog is for you. It is a plea addressed to each of you regardless of your stance. In order to reach a mutual consensus on a debatable issue, it is important to have a holistic approach. Rather than obscuring and isolating the issue, we need to look at the larger picture, analyse every aspect before deciding on a stance. Unfortunately, when it comes to one of the most pertinent issues we currently face, we are wasting our energies in arguing, blaming and categorising the other rather than thinking rationally. Our own flaws prevent us from solving issues, which often get so out of hand that they are then dubbed controversial and thus, snubbed forever. The debate on the blasphemy laws in Pakistan is one of the many examples of how our myopic view has hindered any progress that might have been possible.

I cannot seem to shake off the image of Mumtaz Qadri, the 26-year-old assassin who killed Governor Salman Taseer, smiling with content, his words “Bus sarkar, qabool karlain” as he confessed to the murdered of Governor Taseer. In his opinion and in the opinions of many others, Qadri is a hero because he had killed in the name of God. Again, the lack of foresight and fervor for martyrdom prevented hundreds of his supporters from condemning something that was nothing but cold-blooded murder. Islam does not allow us to take law into our hands. Whether you stand for or against the blasphemy law is insignificant, taking the law into our hands is a crime irrespective of the motive. Islam, by means of Quran and Hadith, strongly advocates against false accusations and the need for concrete evidence before any kind of punishment is ruled out:

“He who, in order to find fault, says something about a person that was not there, Allah will throw such a person in hell till he tastes fully what he had fabricated.” (Tibrani)

Those who claim that Qadri was a hero conveniently overlooked that there is a reason why there are courts in this country. There is a reason why there is a proper judicial system to tackle any forms of crime. The reason is fairly simple: to prevent lawlessness and injustice. Taseer wasn’t a blasphemer, he had never insulted the Quran, the Prophet (PBUH) or Islam but he was killed in the name of the blasphemy law that according to him, was “man-made.” Governor Taseer was killed because he asked for mercy for a 45-year old mother of five. Twenty-seven bullets for taking a stance. His murder highlights the abuse of Islam and Quran for the sake of power and authority. By encouraging such behavior we are promoting lawlessness and a state where people will be at each other’s throat on a mere disagreement. Is this the message of the Quran? Is this what Islam teaches us? How humane is it to rejoice someone’s death?

In the aftermath of Governor Taseer’s murder and the confession, many considered the murder a victory for Islam, justifying the killing by Governer Taseer’s opposition to the abuse of the blasphemy law. It was mind-numbing to see people using all forms of media to publicly advocate murder and justify blood in the name of religion. Let’s be clear on this: these people rejoicing weren’t the Taliban and neither did a significant number of these individuals have links with terrorist organisations. Some television anchors resorted to using “jaa bahaq” rather than the more suiting (and often abused) “shaheed” (martyr) when talking about the murder. A Wikpedia entry and a few fan pages were created on Facebook in support of Qadri. Over 500 ‘moderate’ religious clerics, pronounced Qadri as “ghazi” while lawyers showered him with rose petals; one of them even embraced him as he arrived in Islamabad.

Governor Salman Taseer stood for tolerance and he was killed at the hands of extremism. There’s no justification for his murder, and every single one who instigated violence, has blood on their hands. Governor Taseer’s death highlights intolerance, hate and bigotry and speaks of a desensitised society where cold-blooded murders are justified. We have been moving in the wrong direction for a very long time now. Our ideologies have become distorted and our vision, diminishing. The constant state of violence and the need to prove ourselves as pious Muslims and patriotic Pakistanis has engulfed our humanity. There are no rational dialogues anymore, only ego tussles, labels and death threats. It appears that when religious sentiments are involved anything and everything is justified. This is not piety or devotion, it is pure insanity, inhumanity and barbarism. The solution to our problems does not lie in striking each others head off, or battling for or against the blasphemy law, the solution lies in reasonable public discourse. Taseer’s death highlights the need for counter abuse laws to prevent wrongful accusations. Let us not talk of repeal and amendments but the need to fight abuse, to ensure that no one is allowed to use laws to settle personal vendettas, that violence is no longer justified in the name of religion. As a practicing Muslim and a devotee to the teachings of the Quran and the Prophet (PBUH), I am outraged by those like Qadri who justify their heinous crime in the name of Islam. Nothing would disappoint the Prophet (PBUH) more than violence being justified in his name; nothing is more blasphemous than using Islam as a tool to justify violence. REFERENCE: Salman Taseer: No justification for murder This entry was posted on January 6, 2011

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