PakAlumni Worldwide: The Global Social Network

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Pakistan Media Crisis: Facts and Myths

Why are Pakistan media groups laying off employees and shutting down TV channels? Is it caused by Pakistan government cutbacks in advertising? Is it part of the PTI government's alleged efforts to censor media? Or part of the long overdue industry shake-out after almost two decades long un-interrupted media business expansion?

Pakistan Ad Spending. Source: Aurora/Dawn

How much was the Nawaz Sharif led PMLN government spending on advertising? Did Nawaz Sharif and Shahid Khaqan Abbasi increase media advertising budgets to buy favorable coverage at taxpayers' expense?

Are Pakistan government and national security establishment unique in wanting to manage media coverage? Do Western government manage media as well? If so, how? How do their media management techniques differ?

Global Advertising Growth 2016. Source: Magna

What is the future of media in Pakistan as the Internet penetration grows dramatically with 1-2 million more people coming online each month? Will greater spending on digital ads change journalism in Pakistan? Will more journalists take to social media and other online platforms as business?

Viewpoint From Overseas host Misbah Azam discusses these questions with panelists Sabahat Ashraf and Riaz Haq.

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Comment by Riaz Haq on December 21, 2018 at 7:27am

The U.S. Has Been Named as One of the Deadliest Places in the World for Journalists

Two narco-states, a near failed state and the U.S. These were among the deadliest places to practice journalism in 2018, according to Reporters Without Borders (RSF), which added the U.S. to the worst offenders list for the first time in the annual roundup’s 23-year history.

The home of the first amendment ranked in the top five most lethal countries for members of the press, behind Afghanistan, Syria, Mexico and Yemen, while tying with India.

Six journalists lost their lives in the U.S. over the past year. Four, as well as a sales accountant, were brutally killed when a gunman opened fire on the Capital Gazette newsroom in June in the deadliest single attack on the media in recent history. Two other U.S. journalists, a cameraman and TV anchor, were killed by a falling tree in May while covering a storm in North Carolina.

Hostage-takings, imprisonment and disappearances all increased. In total, RSF recorded 80 journalists killed this year, 61% of whom were targeted in retaliation for their work. Another 348 were detained, and 60 held hostage.

“Journalists have never before been subjected to as much violence and abusive treatment as in 2018,” the press watchdog said in a statement.

While RSF named Afghanistan the deadliest country for journalists this year, with 13 deaths, 45% of the worldwide murders the group recorded occurred outside of conflict zones. These included the high-profile killings of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi and Slovakian data journalist Ján Kuciak. Their shocking murders, as well as the high number of cases in which reportage led to prolonged incarceration, such as with Myanmar journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, have demonstrated “the lengths to which press freedom’s enemies are prepared to go,” RSF said.

The group’s findings underscore the rising animosity journalists across the world encountered in the past year, a problem that has been enflamed by world leaders’ and politicians’ invectives against the media, including the frequent “enemy of the people” salvos fired off by President Donald Trump.

“The hatred of journalists that is voiced, and sometimes very openly proclaimed, by unscrupulous politicians, religious leaders and businessmen has tragic consequences on the ground, and has been reflected in this disturbing increase in violations against journalists,” said Christophe Deloire, RSF’s Secretary-General.

“Amplified by social networks, which bear heavy responsibility in this regard, these expressions of hatred legitimize violence, thereby undermining journalism, and democracy itself, a bit more every day,” he added.

In a separate report issued Wednesday, the Committee to Protect Journalists found the number of journalists killed in reprisals for their work nearly doubled worldwide compared to 2017. As of Dec. 14, at least 34 journalists were singled out for murder.

The New York-based organization said the uptick in killings, combined with the sustained high number of jailings, adds up “to a profound global crisis of press freedom.”

Last week, TIME recognized four journalists and one news organization targeted for their work — Jamal Khashoggi, Maria Ressa, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo and the Capital Gazette of Annapolis, Md. — as the Person of the Year.

Comment by Riaz Haq on December 21, 2018 at 7:31am

The Pakistan government’s financial squeeze on journalism

By Umer Ali

“It is the worst financial crisis the media industry has seen since it was liberalized,” Afzal Butt, the president of Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists, says. (Pakistani broadcast media, previously under the exclusive control of the government, was in 2002 opened up to private ownership.) But the financial paralysis of news outlets has not been entirely a function of the market. It has been a direct result of the government’s recent austerity measures.

Over the summer, the government—the biggest source of advertising revenue for media organizations—stopped paying what it owed. “News media in Pakistan, despite knowing its drawbacks, still rely heavily on government advertisements and subsidies,” Saroop Ijaz, Human Rights Watch’s Pakistan reporter, says. At the time, the cut-off was seen as part of a broad effort by Imran Khan, the cricketer turned politician who was elected prime minister in August, to slash government expenditures.

RELATED: Prominent Pakistan journalist shot by gunman

Yet many journalists and free-press activists believe the motivation was more sinister. In their view, the government has attempted to financially squeeze dissenting voices among the news media. “It’s not like a flash flood that caught townspeople by surprise,” Butt says. “It’s a properly planned crisis orchestrated by several state organs.”

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Pakistan’s government has stifled reporters and other critics before. Other methods have included arrest, prohibitions on leaving the country, abductions, and violent attacks. Pakistan’s military, which wields significant influence over civilian matters, “quietly, but effectively, restricts reporting by barring access, encouraging self-censorship through direct and indirect acts of intimidation, and even allegedly instigating violence against reporters,” according to a recent report by the Committee to Protect Journalists. Around 60 journalists have been killed in Pakistan since 1992, and CPJ estimates that the military, government, or associated political groups were responsible for half of those killed in the past decade.

Matiullah Jan, an Islamabad-based television journalist known for his pro-democracy views, was among the first victims of the layoffs this fall. Previously, he says, officials would directly threaten journalists to gag criticism—something Jan believes he experienced last year, when two men on motorbikes pulled up next to the vehicle he and his children were traveling in and smashed the windshield with a rock. “Now they are using sophisticated methods to trigger a financial crisis,” he says.

In addition to limiting advertising, Jan explains, the government can attempt to bring down networks’ ratings by shuffling channel assignments—making shows difficult to find—or pressuring cable operators to take critical news channels off the air (both of which happened to Pakistani TV network Geo this spring), or limiting circulation of certain newspapers.

One of the newsrooms that believes itself to have been targeted by financial suppression is Dawn, Pakistan’s largest and most respected English-language daily paper. In 2016, Cyril Almeida, a reporter for Dawnreported leaks from the proceedings of a national security council meeting, during which the government confronted military leadership over inaction against certain terrorist groups. “Dawn leaks” became a major political talking point, and led Pakistan’s information minister to resign. During a government-commissioned inquiry into the matter, Dawn editors refused to name their sources, and Almeida was temporarily barred from leaving the country. Since then, the paper claims, government officials have choked the paper’s circulation, barring its distribution in several cities and military cantonments, special zones across the country that are controlled and managed by the armed forces. In September, Almeida was hit with treason charges, and was again barred from leaving the country, this time because of an interview published in May in which he quoted Nawaz Sharif, a former prime minister, implicitly criticizing the military for its policies on terrorism.


MATIULLAH JAN BELIEVES THAT the military and Khan’s party, the Pakistan Justice Movement, are in cahoots to suppress the critical press. “Something strange has happened,” Jan says. “In the previous government there was a clear divide between the military and the civilians which was often expressed publicly; however, the current government and the military are on the same page when it comes to freedom of expression.”


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