Anchor Farieha Idrees isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed. Still, one would have thought she would have known better than to tweet out some pure, unadulterated chutzpah.
On the surface, of course, there was nothing wrong with her tweet; it was rather admirable, in fact.
The context: the impressive political procession that escorted former prime minister Nawaz Sharif was not covered appropriately by the TV channels. One does not need to have insider sources in the news media to conjecture that the effective gag order came from certain quarters. Not only was the League procession a show of strength, it also revealed that the party still has burning embers that could be stoked at a moment’s notice.
Well, it turned out that Lahore-based channel Ab Takk didn’t ‘get the memo,’ as it were. The channel isn’t gutsy in an out-of-the-way sense, so the newsroom hands wouldn’t have even thought they were fighting the good journalistic fight by giving the procession coverage. They would have simply been giving the event coverage because, it was…happening.
In any case, the next day, the channel started disappearing from the cable networks in many areas. This prompting our lady Farieha to tweet at both Pemra and information minister Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan.
She was right to be enraged, after all. This thuggish behaviour is an affront to free media and should be opposed tooth and nail.
But when she took to twitter, she couldn’t find much support.
No support, predictably, from the establishmenty types, of course, because they said that “a criminal” should not be given any coverage.
But no support from the other end of the spectrum as well. The reason: Ms Idrees’ earlier insistence on twitter, that the press in Pakistan was facing next to no censorship and suppression.
The journalist Mehreen Zahra-Malik: “This is sad @Fereeha and I hope the situation is resolved ASAP but I vaguely remember you tweeting several times about how there is little or no censorship in #Pakistan. Not sure if you changed your opinion later but this should definitely help, unfortunate as it is.”
Meanwhile, rights activists Marvi Sirmed also weighed in: “I’m sure now you must have realised the extent of censorship on Pakistani media. I was really astonished to see your earlier tweets denying any curbs on media. My best wishes are with your channel for earliest resumption. I totally condemn this. Hope you too would now.”
Idrees was quiet when the likes of the Jang Group and Dawn faced pressures far worse than the paltry bit of inconvenience faced by Ab Takk
Idrees had also, in the past, resented the coverage by the foreign press of the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement and implied a desire to curb even that coverage.