By New Age Islam Edit Desk
25 June, 2014
The recent ban on the Jung group of publications’ TV channel Geo has brought to fore the power and influence Pakistan’s ISI has over the media. In April this year, the senior journalist of Geo Hamid Mir was shot by some unidentified assailants. Hamid Mir had suggested the hands of ISI in the attack as he has been very critical of the role of ISI in the country. Last month, his brother had said on the channel that ISI chief had ordered the attack on his brother. This invited the wrath of the ISI which is the intelligence wing of the Pakistan army.
Under pressure from Pakistan army, Geo TV was banned for 15 days. Just before that, it made another mistake. In one of its morning shows, it played the video footage of the wedding of Veena Malik and Asad Malik with a traditional song that suggested that Veena Malik was like Hadhrat Fatima (R.A) and her husband was like Hadhrat Ali (R.A.) This created a controversy as the PEMRA, the regulatory authority of electronic media got 5000 complaints about the programme. Though the GEO broadcast apology on its channel, people, religious and militant organisations demanded blasphemy case slapped against the channel.
However, the journalist fraternity have protested against this ban and called it illegal. Hamid Mir has been alleged of regularly writing articles in which he criticises the ISI and the army. This has created a bad image of the army and the ISI among the readers. Since Hamid Mir has survived after the attack, he had unleashed a media campaign against the army and the ISI. Due to this, some sections of his detractors have also branded him an agent of India and, as is their habit, of RAW. GEO was also criticised for reporting that the attackers of Kamera airbase (August 2012) were all Pakistanis though the sections of anti-India media spread the view that all the attackers were foreign nationals hinting at the involvement of India. During the Pakistan government’s dialogue with Taliban, the later had attacked the army and the police killing hundreds of them and the Karachi attack was also carried out by the Taliban to put pressure on the government but the pro-Taliban media wanted people to believe that the attacks were not the work of Taliban so that the army and the government did not launch any operation against them. The operation against Taliban was launched because the government, the army and the media agreed that Taliban had been attacking not only the security establishments but also the commercial and residential areas of Pakistan killing innocent people rampantly.
Hamid Mir is not the first or the only victim of the ISI or the army. The army has killed many journalists and activists earlier as well for exposing their dangerous plans and human rights violations. It regularly kidnaps, intimidates and harasses journalists for not kowtowing to their diktats. In April 2014, Amnesty International released a detailed report saying that journalists are threatened, intimidated and attacked by the spy agency of Pakistan. Many reporters and journalists have reported their story to the Amnesty International.
Amnesty says journalists are particularly at risk when exposing security lapses by the military, or the army's alleged links to banned military groups such as the Taliban.
One of the important cases of murder by the ISI is the murder of the investigative journalist Saleem Shahzad who had prepared an investigative report on the infiltration of Al Qaeda into the Pakistani army for a foreign website. He had privately told Human Rights Watch that an ISI officer had threatened to kill him. Soon after that he was killed by the ISI.
The ISI is also said to frighten the media houses away from sensitive issues. Hamid Mir also claims that he got death threats from the agency over his huge coverage of Balochistan issue where the army takes highly repressive measures against the Balochistan’s separatist organisations and activists.
Because of GEO’s allegations against the army and the ISI, the army demanded that the PEMRA cancel its licenses. Jung group is the leading media house in Pakistan. The ban on it has given the rival media houses the opportunity to bite into its consumer share accusing GEO of being traitors playing into the hands of the enemies of Pakistan.
Closing the biggest media house in the country would prove fatal to democracy in the country which is already grappling with many issues. The Pakistan army and the ISI want to silence the dissenting voices in the country and to impose censorship on the media to further their own political interests. This will only make the democratic government weak and strengthen the hands of the demonic army and the ISI.
Less power to the Army and more power to the Press! The Army has no business interfering with domestic or foreign policy issues. It should provide adequate national defense and take orders from civilian authorities.