- International observers aren’t blind
The utility of avoiding attacks on press freedom, and instead promoting it, was to be seen in London when Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi found himself at the receiving end of a Canadian who had had his Twitter account closed down in Pakistan. Mr Qureshi had gone to attend a seminar on press freedom in London, where he had gone to attend the Commonwealth meeting. Mr Qureshi found himself defending the Pakistani press as free around the same time as a news channel was forced to pull an interview of PML-N Vice-President Maryam Nawaz. Though the channel and interviewer were different, in much the same fashion, the interview was stopped by the channel just as that of PPP Co-chairman Asif Zardari’s was. This must be seen along with Prime Minister Imran Khan’s avowed distaste for TV channels interviewing those under trial or in jail. It would perhaps be quibbling to note that Ms Maryam is not either, being bailed in a case, or that Mr Zardari is not even under trial, and has been arrested so that a case might be built against him; but the principle of innocence being presumed until proof of guilt, seems to be going out the window.
Journalists are directly under attack with the latest online and offline threats being brought to the notice of the government, in the shape of a delegation which called on Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari. The delegation included women journalists from the Coalition for Women in Journalism, and highlighted not just the threats being made on a website, but which they were also receiving individually on social media. That the issue is being internationalised was shown by this, for the delegation was a local chapter of an international organisation.
All of this presents an ugly picture of media where dissenting voices are not argued with, but threatened and silenced. It should be understood by the government that the days of keeping things under wraps are gone. The entire world listens in, and there are keen observers. For one, such strong-arm tactics will drive away the foreign investors so greatly desired by the government. The government should not bother praising Pakistan’s democratic credentials, when they are potentially so vulnerable to criticism.