So much for freedom of speech in Pakistan

Published: July 10, 2010

Who said that it is only the extremist elements that cannot stand the free press in this country?

There are in fact numerous groups that would refute this misconception.

First there are the lawyers, who could not stand being recorded beating up unarmed men in a government office in Faisalabad or beating up a policeman. How dare the cameraman show them doing that? And of course, in response they thought it best to simply break a camera or two.

Then there are the doctors, who could not stand having to deal with investigations and coverage of news stories highlighting their malpractice. So, they decided to beat up reporters. Note: one of the stories of malpractice being covered involved the death of a three-year-old at a very expensive medical facility in Lahore.

Let’s not forget that a just few months back even the presidency had issues with the media and had started taking offence at what the television channels were talking about.

And now, we have our so called big-hearted Punjab Assembly here. I am unable to comprehend as to what exactly they want from the media? Do they want the media to not call a fake degree ‘fake’ or jaali but rather call it asli? Or, do they want a complete and utter denial of all the things that they have been up to.

And to top it all off, they have resorted to name calling, tears as well as throw-downs. So much for their false notions of izzat.

I mean it must be all Musharraf’s fault right? Had he not concocted the evil plan to manipulate poor Pakistani MPAs, MNAs and Senators, they would not have been ‘forced’ to lie and violate the law.

Well, at least Shahbaz Sharif would be relieved now since in the wake of the Data Darbar attacks the focus has finally shifted away from his favorite law minister.

I believe there are enough reasons to assert that ‘Pakistan is one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists,’ and hence it deserves to be added to yet another list compiled by an independent monitoring agency, no?

Rabia Mehmood

Rabia Mehmood

A reporter at the Lahore Bureau of Express 24/7 and a IWMF Elizabeth Neuffer Fellow at the Center for International Studies, MIT.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Usman Zafar

    Good job Rabia. The media has now become a pariah entity, being blamed for everything by those who are actually responsible this mess. But in a way, this fingerpointing gives a strange sort of validity to our journalistic cause. Why else would people oppose us, if we weren’t doing something right? :P Recommend

  • temporal


    one of the best things that happened under musharraf administration is releasing the genie out of the bottle….Recommend

  • Shams Hamid

    Excellent piece Rabia. Censorship has been so effectively implemented in Pakistan that now journalists themselves censor their works. The fear of reprisal is so high that speaking up honestly is considered “stupid”. Sixty three years of oppression has taken its toll, now only that is spoken and done that is told.

    Last ten years are thought to be the most liberal period of media censorship yet we do not see any investigative report into gross misconduct and corruption of the establishment, i.e., Army and ISI.

    Journalists have failed to bring massess, politicians and establishment from their delusion in the eternity of the state despite its division into two nations in 1971. Only few seem to notice the crisis in Pakistan is taking it close to its dismemberment into many pieces this time.

    Against all hopes I hope for the best, I wish hope alone was sufficient to overcome the crisis. Peace! Recommend

  • Dr Kamran Khan

    I used to think best thing mush did was city governments. Now I have realized it was the new media
    Dr Kamran Khan

  • Muhammad Muzaffar Abbas

    In Pakistan we sure do have freedom of speech, but what we lack is freedom AFTER speech.Recommend

  • Mansoor Khalid

    A free and responsible are the first signs of a nation on its way to a civilized democratic rule. Our media grew and grew at a tremendous pace. It raised the level of awareness to a considerable level in general public. But some recent events have thwarted this progress. We need to stand alongside with our media and demand its freedom from such oppression.Recommend

  • Syed Abdul Wahab Gilani

    Every one has a dictator in itself, PA MPAs found found one in them.Recommend

  • Kiran Javed

    well I think, media is quite powerful now in Pakistan. It can make or break a person in few seconds. The assault on media by various communities is highly condemnable but media should be more responsible as well. Instead of competing with each other, as to who reported what first, their emphasis should be upon telling us the truth not the masalas. At times an issue of grave importance is pitifully ignored and a meager happening is given unneeded attention. This is how media misguides. So, fault lies at both sides of the continuum. Recommend

  • Abbas Cheema

    Rabia, honestly speaking.. I think whatever you’re saying here and all this media hype is just bull** ! Sorry.. I did not mean any offence. I wouldnt wanna go into a long debate or arguments about your position or mine. Whatever I am saying is based on personal experiences. And You should know I have worked in positions where I had to deal with “… See MoreMedia-Gardi” instead of “Ghunda-Gardi”.

    I know this will offend you and your friends a lot.. but Sorry.. that’s just what I think.

    And if you can forget my so-called immature behaviour for a second, I am quite seasoned, well travelled and of sound mind (if you believe:P). And I have enough experience related to politics, society, army, law and medicine AND ethics ! That covers all of your concerned parties in this post.. right ? So now if I say, I will not have any objection if only media can be fair, impartial, unbiased, and pro-Pakistan,, will I be right or wrong?? If only media can tell you the REAL truth.. and can show us both sides of the moon…. I know you wouldnt agree.. :))) So I dont care :D Recommend

  • Malik Rashid

    Evil is the temperament that scares journalists and writers of a backlash. This short-tempered response is not limited to gangsters and maulvis. Government, its institutions and civil bodies like the lawyers have expressed fury without restraint. ‘Saheb ka ghussa kharaab hai’. Legal recourse must be made easily accessible for the culture of personal vendetta to subside.Recommend

  • Issam Ahmed

    Abbas hasn’t made a single rebuttal to any of the specific examples you talked about, because he doesn’t really have a coherent argument.

    Sure the media in Pakistan oversteps at times and corruption and blackmailing does exist. But there’s nothing to excuse the behaviour of the individuals you cited in your article and to suggest otherwise is just ridiculous.

    Also risible is the line about the media being anti-Pakistan — can never fathom how some people think that holding the government accountable for its actions is somehow UNpatriotic. Democracy 101, people.Recommend

  • Usman Zafar


    I don’t think that the media needs to add any spice to issues like the Fake degree situation. One just needs to hear the comments made against it in the Punjab Assembly. If anything, the spice was added by the Assembly members who accused journalists, judiciary, and (j)enerals of undermining democracy.

    The only problem is that our politicians are just not used to the idea of accountability, which is now coming from a media far more independent than ten years ago. This is not misguidance, but whistleblowing.

    @ Abbas Cheema:

    I fail to see a single cogent argument in your post, but given that you have extensive experience pertaining to pretty much all the affairs of the State, I would really like to know how the media’s exposure of societal issues like fake degrees, or medical negligence does not qualify as “Pro-Pakistan”. Perhaps we are too content to overlook societal evils as some kind of taboo topic that everyone knows about, but no one wants to discuss. And when someone points them out, people oppose it, because they don’t want to see the dark side of the moon. Ignorance is not limited to the illiterate. It extends to the educated and the elites as well. But ignorance is not always bliss, especially not when it concerns your country. Recommend