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Countering foreign media influence in Pakistan

In the name of countering foreign media influence in Pakistan, blocking news websites and censorship do harm to Pakistan’s image worldwide.

Recently, Pakistani government has blocked Urdu and Pashto websites of the Voice of America, a U.S. government-funded international radio broadcast source. The Information Minister Fawad Chaurdhry confirmed it to VOA English saying that the action was taken on account of “false and prejudiced reporting”.

Apparently, the democratic government of Pakistan is clearly responsible for the unwanted censorship of digital media, but the same blatant course was also exercised by previous governments.

PML-N’s government had ordered RFE/RL, a U.S. government-funded broadcast service, to close its Islamabad office in January, charging that its programs were “against the interest of Pakistan.”

Now it is the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government banning independent media platforms, blocking international websites and censoring national news sources. PTI chief Imran Khan always used to claim to have come into power through fair elections with a will of the people exercising their digital rights and freedom of speech.

It is dubiously, the country’s powerful establishment imposing the blatant censorship over new media to silence public debate and stifle independent thoughts.

We cannot find the PTI government with any clear stand on the media blackout, the censorship and the ban on VOA websites. Like a repressive regime, any government in Pakistan, whether it is PTI or PML-N, has a blurred justification, “false and prejudiced reporting” and “reporting against the interest of Pakistan.”

Unfortunately, the ban and censorship do harm to Pakistan’s image worldwide. By the “interest of Pakistan” we mean to impose a one-dimensional worldview upon their people, the world believes.

It is the influence what Pakistan calls “anti-state propaganda of foreign media”, which has strong existence in the country particularly in the erstwhile Fata, KP and Balochistan whereas our state-run media institutions Radio Pakistan and PTV have very poor transmission and very unpopular broadcast-programs for its audience. So, our state media is unable to attract audience and grab more listeners and viewers.

In fact, Pakistan needs to compete, supposedly if foreign media work on any so-called anti-state propaganda.

Radio Azadi (RFE/RL), VOA’s Deewa Radio, VOA Urdu (Aap Ki Dunya) and a few more foreign and Afghan broadcasts have very strong transmission in KP & tribal districts. Whereas on our side, Radio Pakistan and PTV have no transmission and no single FM radio channel is allowed to broadcast programs in the erstwhile Fata.

Media blackouts, censorship and bans on international news websites badly do more harm Pakistan’s image than anything else.

We have one best option, it is to strengthen our national radio and television in the targeted areas where Pakistan needs to counter foreign media influence in Pakistan, produce quality and attractive programs and entertain audience.

Many of us believe that security agencies do not allow private channels to launch their services in tribal region. So, they also need to review the policies and then prepare an applicable mechanism and issue  licences to those who apply for.

It is deeply unfortunate, whether it is the government or the powerful establishment, that is pushing our media to the wall, demonising those journalist as being anti-state who dare to ask inconvenient questions and refuse to be silent in the face of injustice.

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