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

Changing the media landscape – article about ‘The News on Sunday’ for The News 20th anniversary issue)

Editor with Reporter: Probably discussing what to get for lunch. Photo: Rahat Ali Dar

For The News 20th anniversary supplement, published Feb 22, 2011.

The News on Sunday:  Changing the media landscape

By Beena Sarwar

The News on Sunday was launched in 1994, as The News on Friday, Pakistan’s first weekend newspaper – Friday was then a weekly holiday. In 1997, the name change itself reflected the ideological confusions that abound in Pakistan, where religion is freely used for political purposes, and as an excuse to retain the status quo.

Clearly, religion is conveniently dispensed with if it clashes with, say, financial interests, as when Nawaz Sharif, the country’s businessman-prime minister who was otherwise careful to keep the ‘religious’ lobby happy, reverted to Sunday as Pakistan’s weekly holiday. In doing so, he overturned a move made 20 years earlier by Z.A. Bhutto who had sought to consolidate power by playing the religious card. Nawaz Sharif’s decision was motivated by financial considerations, over-ruling the opposition of the conservatives. It indicated that anything is possible with political will, even reversing a decision taken in the name of religion. Continue reading

Peace hankies + trade + business = reduce hostilities

Happy Home School students display their Aman ki Asha 'peace hankies'. Photo: Naqeebur Rehman

Another Aman ki Asha event in the offing -‘Partners in peace and progress‘, the trade and investment meeting between top Indian and Pakistani business executives, taking place in Delhi May 18-19, 2010. This is the latest in the chain of events since the initiative was launched on Jan 1, 2010, by two media giants of Pakistan and India. Since then, there have been several events in both countries – literary festivals, music concerts, mushaira, editors and anchors’ meeting, a seminar on strategic issues, the ongoing peace hankies campaign, and now this major economic conference. The coverage of these events in the media, especially the sponsoring media groups Jang, News, Times of India and Geo TV, has created a buzz around peace. Crucially, it has helped to create ‘an enabling environment’, as Geo TV President Imran Aslam terms it, that may well have contributed to the thaw in India Pakistan relations. (For more peace hankies photos see my Flickr site). For those cynics and the critics – yes we all know peace is not going to happen overnight, but when the critical mass of people is clearly for it, it might not be so far away as it once had seemed.

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