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Media gag in Pakistan? Articles on Pashtun protest taken down

Three articles about the agitation being organised by Pakhtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) were taken down by The News on Sunday, the Sunday edition of English daily The News.

world Updated: Apr 16, 2018 00:05 IST
Imtiaz Ahmad
Imtiaz Ahmad
Hindustan Times, Islamabad
Pakistan media gag,pashtun protest,News on Sunday
Pashtun demonstrators at a rally in Peshawar on April 8, calling for an end to abuses by police and troops.The crowd chanted anti-military slogans as speakers took to the stage demanding an end to forced "disappearances" and harassment by authorities.(AFP File)

Pakistan appears to be imposing a media gag on the ongoing mass protest of Pashtuns, with articles on it being taken down from some prominent publications.

Three pieces about the agitation, being organised by Pakhtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM), were taken down by The News on Sunday, the Sunday edition of English daily The News. The paper is published by the Jang Group, which also owns Geo Television, and is currently at loggerheads with the country's security establishment over what it prints and airs. Geo’s channels have been off air in many parts of the country.

In the past two months, a number of newspapers and TV channels have ignored the PTM rally despite the fact that it is an emerging force in politics of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

The PTM is protesting the imposition of curfews and the arbitrary measures imposed by the army during its operations in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa that bring untold hardship on the people of the area. They have also demanded that the victims of forced disappearances, many of whom they suspect are in military custody, be presented before the courts. PTM has criticised the military's role of siding with one militant group against another. Much to the embarrassment of the military high command, PTM insists that militants have not been wiped out of the areas as the army claims.

The army high command is upset with the content generated by the Jang Group, and intelligence agencies have been unofficially ordered to take down Geo TV from cable channels despite an order from Pakistan’s broadcast regulator to keep it on air. “We can see who holds the real power in Pakistan in the way Geo has been taken off air by most cable operators despite an order from the PEMRA (Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority) to have it on air," comments Abid Hussain, a local journalist.

Some analysts said the move by the News on Sunday is an indication that the Jang Group wants to fall in line with the rest of Pakistani media.

Not only is the army squeezing the Jang Group, it is also making sure that PTM stories do not make it on the mainstream media. Last week, the Express Tribune newspaper took off its story on the rally of the PTM in Peshawar from its online edition. Despite criticism from media circles, the paper did not give any explanation for its decision.

The Express Tribune was singled out by Twitter users for deleting a story on the protest after publishing it. “ET deleted a story on Pakistani pashtun youth protest after publishing it. An example of how media surrender to pressure by those who don't want these stories to get coverage," tweeted Voice of America journalist Nazrana Ghaffar.

Another Twitter user, who also shared a screenshot of the story, wrote: “This tweet of @etribune stand deleted. Here is the screenshot. First they came for story to be deleted, then they came for tweet to be deleted and next they will come for the whole @etribune to be deleted.”

On Sunday, Muhammad Ali Talpur tweeted on how the News on Sunday took down three articles, including one of his own.

First Published: Apr 15, 2018 21:23 IST