Stories about censorship

Living in online filter bubbles

On December 4, 2009, Google’s corporate blog released a post that did not receive much fanfare or attention but made sweeping changes in the landscape of the internet bringing about a paradigm shift in its nature. The post’s headline said ‘Personalized Search for Everyone’. This meant that since the very next day, Google would use 57 signals to guess our identity and produce search results on that basis. A race to know as much as possible about you has commenced amongst not just Google but all internet giants. Behind the sites we visit, there is a huge new market of ...

Read Full Post

Banned Books Week: Rahi Masoom Raza’s fight to never stop swearing

This week (September 23rd-29th) is being celebrated as the Banned Books Week around the world, especially in the United States, where this tradition took inception during the Ronald Reagan era back in 1982. Concerned about violation of freedom of speech, rights activists raised the issue of banning books and their censorship, as well as the persecution of writers. Hence, it was decided that every year, the last week of September would be celebrated as the Banned Books Week. Perhaps it is no coincidence that International Translation Day falls immediately after Banned Books Week, on September 30th. At least for this humble scribe, ...

Read Full Post

How are we supposed to keep a check on governance without Twitter, PM Imran Khan?

The 280 characters provided by Twitter don’t seem like a lot of space to make a powerful statement. It sounds even smaller when nearly 6,000 tweets are tweeted per second, which corresponds to over 350,000 tweets per minute, 500 million tweets per day and around 200 billion tweets per year. But with 350 million monthly active users, every tweet has the potential to reach millions of people. That’s the very reason influencers, celebrities, and even governments turn to Twitter at important events. There is no media outlet or portal on earth with the reach and opportunity for a viral ...

Read Full Post

Is there a second amorous affair brewing in Saanp Seerhi?

For an average serial, one of the most vital moments is when cupid strikes. However, it is hard to establish such a plot in certain dramas where power and politics form the backdrop. So seems to be the case with Saanp Seerhi. With loud, ruthless socio-political commentary in the background, the love story of Mohid and Sophia is a faint thump.  Politicians stepping into puddles for footage (no points for guessing the inspiration behind this), and enforcing their progeny upon their voters as future masters and their complicated relationship with the media indicates the focus of the drama quite clearly. ...

Read Full Post

The length of my sleeves has nothing to do with my ghairat

A university in Faisalabad has decided to impose a clothing restriction on its students and staff. Like always, the opinions on it have now been divided into the two most common categories: the beyghairat (shameless) liberals and the ghairat brigade (moral brigade). The beyghairat liberals argue that such a code is superfluous and ridiculous. They believe that enforcing such a code is unnecessary considering that the students are adults; they can decide for themselves what is right and wrong. They don’t need a code like this to try enforcing such decisions. The ghairat brigade supports the implementation of a dress code, ...

Read Full Post

What happens when you have no freedom of speech?

Censorship is nothing new. Journalists constantly face threats that come from many different sources – government, extremists and control of the media itself. Over the years, many have been hacked to death, brutally attacked and robbed of their right to free speech. Unfortunately, Pakistan is the 4th most dangerous country for journalists. Is this ranking fair though? For the longest time, Pakistanis have been clamouring for the abolition of their country’s biggest threats to free speech – the blasphemy law. This law has been misused on various occasions, starting from Aasia bibi to Shama and Shahzad, the Christian couple and Governor Salman ...

Read Full Post

Does Pakistan needlessly love to hate on its censor board?

There was a huge hoopla regarding the certification of Swaarangi in Pakistan. After initially being banned by the Central Board for Film Certification (CBFC), the film went on to get a Universal (U) certificate from the respective censor boards of Sindh and Punjab. This prompted the producers to appeal to the Information Ministry to form a separate independent panel that reconsidered the ban initiated by the CBFC. The ministry formed a six-member panel, compromising of independent individuals to review the film again, and after doing so, they cleared the film for release. As a result of which, Swaarangi will be released all over Pakistan. It is interesting to note that Swaarangi had ...

Read Full Post

Dear Saif Ali Khan, how about addressing your own hypocrisy before ‘losing faith in Pakistan’

With the cancellation of the recent talks between India and Pakistan on account of trivial preconditions of the diplomatic interaction, it is no surprise that relations between the two countries have further deteriorated, with an accentuating atmosphere of mistrust, suspicion, and disbelief. During such political volatility, we as people rely upon the strength of confidence building measures between the two nations as an attempt to alleviate tension and these measures are chiefly catalysed by those we call ‘artists’ or ‘media personalities’ who highlight the inherent linkages between the two countries as an attempt to pacify the animosity between these two nations. However, dear Saif Ali Khan, despite having a huge fan base in ...

Read Full Post

For love of the printed word

In the summer of 2010, a colleague brought a new newspaper to work. The workplace had a number of publications coming in but this one made an immediate impact. The type face was bold, the pictures vibrant with colour and the stories were fresh. It was sassy without being saucy and with enough hard hitting content to make me read it cover to cover in one go. The newspaper was The Express Tribune (ET) and fast becoming the young reader’s choice. The reasons were obvious. Compared to the staid fare ladled out by competing newspapers, The Express Tribune was talking about issues prevalent but ...

Read Full Post

An older, scarier version of ‘tabdeeli’

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has become quite a talking point these days. Its chairman, Imran Khan, has been giving ‘dharnas’ for the past 50 days (though one must question the legitimacy of the dharna since it keeps hopping from Bani Gala to Karachi to Lahore and so on and so forth) in the name of… well, I’m not really sure. Perhaps some of the angry, cussing, hatred-filled insafians can enlighten me with their version on this. I’ve faced enough abuse from PTI trolls for not supporting PTI and openly criticising Imran’s version of facts and events. Khan sahib wants a ‘Naya Pakistan’ and chimes for ‘tabdeeli’ (change). He ...

Read Full Post