Pakistani media faces undeclared crackdown

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:AbdulKhalique Ali:
Pakistan Army’s mouthpiece , Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) , In an unprecedented move, last week labeled several reputed journalists, who are critical of  the  military’s attitude regarding the  of tackling some simmering  issues such as “ anti-state elements” .
Showing some tweets, in which  the journalists in question criticized the Army , the way they have been of handling the issue of missing persons, and the protest of Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM),  the director general ISPR Major Gen Asif Ghafoor- an otherwise cool headed  officer,  questioned their patriotism at a press conference leaving the entire community in a state of shock.
The the press briefing was followed by brief  abduction of columnist and activist Gul Bukhari , a vocal critic of the way things are being handled by the  Army, and attack on broadcast journalist Asad Kharal in broad day light in Lahore .
In addition to that, several other journalists have been threatened , major outlets have been blocked , and the stories, which highlight how  “political engineering” is being manipulated are being censored.
The latest incidents have sowed fresh seeds of fear among many of the journalist community with most of them alleging that the ongoing campaign of crackdown and intimidation is aimed at controlling the media ahead of the vote with a view to achieving the desired results.
No matter how concrete these apprehensions are, but the national and the international press freedom watchdogs, including  Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ, Reporters Without Borders, and others rightly see the ISPR’s move as tantamount to putting the lives of concerned journalists in danger.
One can differ with the views of journalists like Umer Cheema, Nasarullah Malik, Azaz Syed, Matiullah Jan, and others, but challenging their patriotism and dubbing them as “ anti-state elements” is not merely unfair and uncalled for but  also a discouraging sign for the so-called vibrant media industry in the country as a whole.
This all is happening when the general elections are around the corner, and the nation is expecting a free and fair treatment from the media to all the political players.
Media watchdogs fear that the latest incidents will further chill the already beleaguered media industry, and further promote the already growing self-censorship , a state that may benefit some quarters in a short-run , but will certainly weaken the fragile democracy , and freedom of press in the country.
Such campaigns, in recent or far past, have earned nothing beneficial to the country , instead, have caused huge blow to the national interest and its unity.
Journalists, of course,  are not holy cows or can be spared from the national and constitutional responsibilities. In line with any other segment of the society, they are equally responsible to abide by the laws relating to national interest and security , which itself has its own definition for different segments of the community .  
One thing should be asserted the issue of missing persons and extra judicial killings cannot be averted despite all the prorogation of 5th generation war and combat strategy being done  by the establishment . You cannot win your own people by force , time has arived to find a solution to all domestic disputes .
  
There can be various other legal and journalistic approaches to engage the dissenters instead of abductions intimidation and to bully them around , this practice has gained us nothing in the past and so will in the future .
The the press briefing was followed by brief  abduction of columnist and activist Gul Bukhari , a vocal critic of the way things are being handled by the  Army, and attack on broadcast journalist Asad Kharal in broad day light in Lahore . In addition to that, several other journalists have been threatened , major outlets have been blocked , and the stories, which highlight how  “political engineering” is being manipulated are being censored.
The latest incidents have sowed fresh seeds of fear among many of the journalist community with most of them alleging that the ongoing campaign of crackdown and intimidation is aimed at controlling the media ahead of the vote with a view to achieving the desired results.
No matter how concrete these apprehensions are, but the national and the international press freedom watchdogs, including  Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ, Reporters Without Borders, and others rightly see the ISPR’s move as tantamount to putting the lives of concerned journalists in danger.
One can differ with the views of journalists like Umer Cheema, Nasarullah Malik, Azaz Syed, Matiullah Jan, and others, but challenging their patriotism and dubbing them as “ anti-state elements” is not merely unfair and uncalled for but  also a discouraging sign for the so-called vibrant media industry in the country as a whole.
This all is happening when the general elections are around the corner, and the nation is expecting a free and fair treatment from the media to all the political players.
Media watchdogs fear that the latest incidents will further chill the already beleaguered media industry, and further promote the already growing self-censorship , a state that may benefit some quarters in a short-run , but will certainly weaken the fragile democracy , and freedom of press in the country.
Such campaigns, in recent or far past, have earned nothing beneficial to the country , instead, have caused huge blow to the national interest and its unity.
Journalists, of course,  are not holy cows or can be spared from the national and constitutional responsibilities.
In line with any other segment of the society, they are equally responsible to abide by the laws relating to national interest and security , which itself has its definition for different segments of the community .
  
There can be various other legal and journalistic approaches to engage the dissenters instead of abductions intimidation and to bully them around , this practice has gained us nothing in the past and so will in the future .

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