Not long ago a perceptive sage from the subcontinent pointed out that “no famine has ever occurred in a country with a free press and regular elections”. In short he made the argument that misguided politics, not lack of food, is what makes that misery and death possible in the first place. And for this succinct observation, backed by years of study and research, Amartya Sen won the Nobel Prize for Economics.
While free transmission of information is now considered to be the life blood of a successful modern nation state, the rulers of Pakistan insist on thinking otherwise.
Mast FM 103, a local radio station was taken off the air after it retransmitted BBC Urdu Service’s Jahan Numa, a programme which discussed and aired public views on Pakistan’s earthquake relief efforts.
According to news reports :
On 14 November 2005, the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) raided a private FM radio station in Karachi and shut down its transmission for alleged violation of laws regulating the operation of radio stations. PEMRA officials assisted by the local police raided the FM 103 radio station and seized its transponders, antennas and other broadcast equipment.Dawn, quoting a representative of the radio station, added that:
PERMA officials with police raided the station and misbehaved with the staff. The police officials used abusive language and seized the equipment forcing the FM 103 to close down its broadcast.Further, Reporters Sans Frontiers (Reporters Without Borders), the international press freedom organisation, not only condemned the forced closure of FM 103 but revealed that two Pakistani satellite TV stations, Rang and Vibe, have been threatened by the Government with sanctions if they do not stop carrying BBC news and current affairs programmes.
Reporters Sans Frontiers's 2005 survey on Press Freedom rates Pakistan as the 150th worst offender out of a survey of 167 countries. Even traditional reprobates such as Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo fare better than us.
And now for some vintage drivel
Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmad, National Assembly, 4th May 2005:
We believe in freedom of the press, which is the pillar of the democracy and hold the journalists in high esteem
Shaukat Aziz, Karachi, 22 May 2005 :
Unprecedented levels of press freedom exist in the country today and it is irreversible.
General Pervez Musharraf, in his National Speech 5 days after the 1999 coup:
Media forms an integral part of statehood in this era of information. I have great regard and respect for the media…I am a firm believer in the freedom of the press.