Geo under fire; owners under threat; being forced to sell shares, step down, appoint ‘approved’ people

"Mr Jeem", the animated Geo mascot: Under pressure

“Mr Jeem”, the animated Geo mascot: Under pressure

“It’s like a newspaper you’re used to getting at your doorstep every day. Suddenly one morning, the newspaper boy starts throwing it in different places every day – near the post box, behind or in the garbage can, on top of the tree, at your neighbour’s porch. That is what is happening with the cable operators taking Geo channels off their regular channel numbers and moving them to the bottom numbers and moving the numbers around.”

That is how a Geo insider describes the ‘ban’ on the channel, even after the Supreme Court, Lahore High Court and Sindh High Court termed the channels’ closure illegal and ordered their restoration. (Read the back story in my earlier article: “Pakistan’s media wars”, in Himal Southasian.

Cable operators say that they are under pressure to not restore the Geo channels (news, sports, entertainment) to their original positions. Meanwhile, companies are under pressure to not advertise with the Jang Group and Geo TV, and many have withdrawn their ads. Continue reading

Pakistan’s media wars – my article for Himal Southasian

Himal-Growing media, shrinking spaces?Himal Southasian, a publication I’m proud to have been associated with since its inception in 1996, has a new issue on the media. My piece Pakistan’s media wars (below) and Mass media and the Modi ‘wave’ by Paranjoy Guha Thakurta are web exclusives. Two additional points to my article:  1. Corporate media owners in Pakistan have always been part of reactionary and anti-democratic forces in general. Their disputes with censoring governments have almost always had commercial motivations. 2. Journalists have played a positive role whenever they remained united in their professionalism. They compromise this unity when they allow journalistic standards to slip and try to become power brokers themselves.

By Beena Sarwar

4 July 2014

What is the political fallout of the battle between a media behemoth and Pakistan’s largest security agency?
Continue reading

Censored! Pakistan blocks progressive Facebook pages

PTA censor BhensaGot the word a few hours ago. Without any notice, warning or explanation, Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) has blocked several progressive pages on Facebook. Interestingly, there is no bar on the pages spewing hatred and furthering the ideology of banned groups.

The blocked pages include Laal, the largest leftist page in South Asia with over 408,000 followers. The other pages include those that post largely in Urdu and therefore reach large numbers, like: Continue reading

“In a democracy the people are supreme, and can criticize all government agencies, which are only servants of the people”

Hamid Mir: Fighting on. AFP photo: Aamir Qureshi

Hamid Mir: Fighting on. AFP photo: Aamir Qureshi

Retired judge of the Supreme Court of India, Justice Markandey Katju, Chairman Press Council of India, emailed the following statement about the attack on Pakistani journalist Hamid Mir:

May 23, 2014: I strongly condemn the attack in Karachi on Hamid Mir, the well known Pakistani journalist, who sustained six bullet injuries in the attack. This is a direct attack on media freedom, whether it was by the Taliban or ISI or anyone else.

Though I have differed with some of the views of Mr. Hamid Mir, I believe, like Voltaire, that he has the democratic right to express his views. Continue reading

Joint statement of solidarity by senior Pakistani journalists against censorship, urging media unity against threats and attacks

press-freedomDozens of senior Pakistani journalists have signed a statement expressing unity and solidarity with each other in today’s divisive times. Many of us have associations with different companies, we have fought long and hard against censorship and for media ethics, and we will not let ourselves be used against each other. Note: This was released on May 3, World Press Freedom Day, with 50 signatories. More are being added as they come in.

Joint statement of solidarity by senior Pakistani journalists against censorship, urging media unity against threats and attacks

Continue reading

Hamid Mir and the ideological security establishment

Below, text of my interview with Viewpoint Online about the Hamid Mir saga, that began with the murderous attack on one of Pakistan’s top journalists and television talk show hosts, who has angered Pakistan’s ideological security establishment with his stands on 1971, regional peace (including with India), and most recently, Balochistan. Besides speaking openly about the distorted history we are taught about this issue in Pakistan, he even walked in support with the Baloch Long March activists. Also read these excellent analyses: Sahar Habib Ghazi on Pakistani spies, Mir, and the missing people of Balochistan, and Jugnu Mohsin –  Rumi and Mir. The character assassination on Hamid Mir now reminds me of the campaigns that followed the attack on Raza Rumi that killed his driver, and even before that, against Malala Yusufzai when she was shot. And this measured speech by Shaheen Qureshi at a recent SAFMA meeting (video, Urdu). Continue reading

Online petition and GIA demo against invasive TV show

GIA demo in Karachi (file photo): Human beings must be treated equally, regardless of gender or sexual orientation

GIA demo in Karachi (file photo): Human beings must be treated equally, regardless of gender or sexual orientation

The Gender Interactive Alliance (GIA) has called for a demonstration against Abb Takk TV’s show Khufia for its gross invasion of privacy and human rights, to be held today, Monday Dec 30, at 4:00 pm at the Karachi Press Club. If you’re in Karachi, please show your solidarity by joining them. Also please read and sign this online petition “Act against AbbTakk TV for violating privacy and human rights

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