Saturday, June 16, 2012

Pakistan's Familygate & Mediagate Scandals Broke on Youtube

Social media revolution is well underway in Pakistan. The new media are coming of age, and trumping the traditional commercial media. Many of the top journalists in the mainstream media knew about Arsalan's Iftikhar's massive corruption but it was through Youtube that the world first learned about it. The same pattern repeated itself when Duniya TV's incriminating off-air video footage found its way on Youtube.

 Familygate or Arslangate:

It has now been established that Malik Riaz Husain of Bahria Town approached a number of top TV talk show hosts in Pakistan and shared detailed information, videos and documentation about $3.7 million in illegal payments made to Arsalan Iftikhar, the son of Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, over several years. Others, including Chaudhry Aitazaz Ahsan, knew about it and shared it with Justice Chaudhry a while ago. While rumors swirled among the Capital insiders, the public at large was kept in the dark until recently when a video of Shaheen Sehbai talking about it surfaced on Youtube and forced the mainstream media to finally discuss it on air.



Here's Shaheen Sehbai breaking the scandal on Youtube:

 

Mediagate: 

Several behind-the-scenes video clips of a Dunya TV talk show leaked on Youtube reveal the television hosts appearing to be helping Malik Riaz Husain prepare his answers, and in certain cases even spoon-feeding him the answers.
 
The leaked video also shows a son of Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani and a daughter of Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) chief Nawaz Sharif calling in to try and influence the on-air contents. “Why don’t you start talking about it yourself, otherwise [if we ask] it will seem planted, which it is, but I don’t know if it should look planted,” says Ms Mehr Bukhari to Malik Riaz while Mr Lucman say that “I’ll say it on air that I’ve been "pressurised" by Mian Amir Mehmood (Dunya TV's owner) and Malik Riaz to do this program.”

Here's two-part Duniya TV's leaked video on Youtube:

 



Questions:

The fact that mainstream media sat on these stories raises serious questions about whose interests are its journalists serving? Why are they afraid to expose the top judges? What kind of illegal payments and other favors are they accepting  from the rich and the powerful? How are the commercial interests of the media owners influencing the editorial opinions and news coverage? Are they trying to hide their own guilt? And to what end?

What's Next:

Free and independent media are often seen as an effective watchdog in a democracy. But the question being asked now is who's watching the watchdogs? One possible answer is that the new super watchdogs are  the ordinary citizen journalists and bloggers who are active in the new cybermedia and not beholden to any special interests.

High-speed broadband expansion led by PTCL has propelled Pakistan to become the fourth fastest growing broadband market in the world and the second fastest in Asia, according to a recent industry report. Serbia leads all countries surveyed with a 68% annual growth rate from Q1 2010 to Q1 2011. Thailand (67%), Belarus (50%), Pakistan (46%), and Jordan (44%) follow Serbia. India is in 14th place worldwide with a 35% annual growth rate.


 In spite of rapid growth, the level of Internet penetration is Pakistan is still low. In a population of 180 million, only 30  million ( about 16 percent) are connected to the Internet, according to Internet World Stats. It's enough to put Pakistan among the top 20 nations in terms of Internet subscribers. And Internet use in Pakistan is growing at a rapid rate, particularly in urban centers where 40% of the population lives, which are also home to the middle class which often forms the backbone of mass-scale uprisings. Mobile Internet use shot up 161 percent in 2010 alone.

Summary:

I believe Pakistan is entering a new era of the Internet media. And I hope that the new social media will continue to enjoy sufficient freedom and growth to provide wide enough access in Pakistan for the citizen journalists to play their role as a watchdog where the mainstream commercial media fails. Sunlight is indeed the best disinfectant for the rot that characterizes Pakistan's power centers today.


Here's the video of a recent TV interview on this subject I participated in:



Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Imran Khan's Social Media Campaign

Culture of Corruption in Pakistan

Pak Judges' Jihad Against Corruption

Pakistan Rolls Out 50Mbps Broadband Service

Mobile Internet in South Asia

Media and Telecom Sectors Growing in Pakistan

Internet Service Providers of Pakistan

Chaudhry is No Angel

Justice Chaudhry's Address to New York Bar

Incompetence and Corruption in Pakistan

Zardari Corruption Probe

NRO Amnesty Order Overturned

Transparency International Rankings 2011

22 comments:

Salman said...

I am extremely disappointed as I had a lot of hopes from Media for a change in this country but now it looks like a cancer that cant be treated.When integrity of persons like Hassan Nisar becomes questionable (many had doubts about Najam Sethi and Luqman anyway but could never think of Hassan Nisar) ,what we can expect from others.Only reputed one that had come out clean is Talat Hussain and hope his name does not appear in next list.BTW,no one objected to his/her name in the list.All their account details and date of transfer of money has put a seal on their lips.

Riaz Haq said...

Salman: "I am extremely disappointed as I had a lot of hopes from Media for a change in this country but now it looks like a cancer that cant be treated."

I think we have to be realistic in our expectations of Pak media. After all, they are mostly commercial entities driven by business interests.

However, I'm still very optimistic for three reasons:

1. Emergence of social media on the Internet and the ubiquity of cell phones and cameras is a threat to all corrupt journalists and media. As I point out, both Familygate and Mediagate were exposed through Youtube.

2. As businesses, the commercial TV channels have to compete with each other to try and win viewers. Those who lose credibility because of their dishonesty will not succeed.

3. There are still people like the insiders at Dunya TV who smuggled out the video. They are willing to take risks by exposing crooks.

Anonymous said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jkhQsQMX2hc

Dr. Hoodbhoy, is 100% right. It is all in culture. Not keeping roza during ramdaan is considered bad, but being corrupt is fine.

HopeWins said...

Dr. Haq,

For once I disagree with you.

I really don't see how this is such a SHOCKING affair.

Let's see, what we are looking at:
(1) Corruption (Bribery & Kickbacks)
(2) Favoring Family & Friends ("Family-gate")
(3) Media paid to plant stories ("Media-gate")

So? What is so unusual about all this? This happens in EVERY country in the world. I am not saying this is acceptable; certainly not, this should be exposed and fought with determination.But to go from there to say that this is a SHOCKING revelation is a bit of a stretch, given that most people in the world are not at all surprised since this happens in almost all countries.

Now if you are really looking for an XYZ-GATE kind of shockingly unusual example of total break down of the system, then MEMO-GATE issue was the real shocker.

The very idea that someone in high levels of our Government would go to the US Government (while all the time we scream about sovereignity) and ask the US to prevent our own Army from taking over via a coup--- this is EXTREMELY rare. Very few, if any, countries experience anything like this and so this something really worth the "XYZ-Gate" tag.

Sometimes, I think think that perphaps we get carried away and sensationalize everything.

As long as the law takes it course, I see nothing to worry about here....l

Thank you.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an Op Ed by Pak journalist Mazhar Abbas published on CPJ Blog:


With ratings driving the profits of media channels, journalists and political talk show hosts are being motivated to stir up controversy at any cost. Meanwhile, the professionals who believe in credibility, objectivity, and honesty as essential parts of ethical journalism are becoming sidelined.


This corruption within the media is spreading like a cancer, and there seems to be no antidote. If it is not checked, it could prove fatal for the media industry. We must take steps to address this problem ourselves. If not, Pakistan's journalists could lose the credibility they have earned from years of struggle.

Earlier this month, a video recording of the off-air conversation between two prominent talk show hosts on Dunya TV was leaked. The hosts, Mubashir Luqman and Mehr Bokhari, were speaking to controversial real estate tycoon Malik Riaz in what was purported to be a confrontational interview broadcast on-air. But the leaked video showed the hosts off-air agreeing to questions, discussing questions to be planted, and talking on the phone to government officials about how to construct the debate.

The video appeared on YouTube [here and here, both in Urdu] a few hours after the show aired, and generated a huge debate both in print and online media about the hosts' credibility. Dunya management claimed there was a conspiracy to defame the channel and ordered an internal inquiry. Bokhari, meanwhile, struggled to clarify her position and denied involvement. Luqman was fired because of the insulting remarks he made about Mian Aamir, the station's owner, that were broadcast in the leaked video.

All 17 of the Pakistani Supreme Court's justices took notice, too. They watched the recordings in the presence of Abdul Jabbar, chairman of the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority. It was not an official proceeding, but Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry questioned Jabbar about his inaction over the interview, the leaked video, and other TV programs ridiculing the judiciary.

Even while the consensus within the Pakistani press was that the credibility of broadcast media had been brought into question, talk shows' viewership went unaffected. This was no surprise: In the past, hosts fired from one station went to another, often with a much higher pay package.

Are these the norms of our society? While controversies, real or staged, often help the popularity of the channels and the anchors, such serious and blatant abuse damages their credibility.
----------


The problem is clear: The media has failed to establish any professional standards or rules of conduct for journalists, editors, or outlet owners. There are no professional organizations like bar associations or engineering or medical councils. There have been very few instances in which any media group or press organization has taken action against its members for violating ethical standards.

It is time for our profession to set some basic rules of conduct, which we will have to enforce ourselves if we want to keep our standing in the public's eye. The time to begin is now.


http://cpj.org/blog/2012/06/can-pakistans-corrupt-media-be-checked.php

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an IBMLive Op Ed by Brijesh Kalappa on judicial-political crisis in Pakistan:

"Let the Judges also remember that Solomon's throne was supported by lions on both sides: let them be lions, but yet lions under the throne." (Francis Bacon)

When a Judge who is appointed and not elected, assumes the role of a judge, jury and executioner, it poses serious problems. Thomas Jefferson declared: "The exemption of the judges from that [elections] is quite dangerous enough. I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves."

The Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry has set a date of July 25 for the new Prime Minister of Pakistan Raja Parvez Ashraf to write a letter to the Swiss authorities in order to re-open corruption cases against President Asif Ali Zardari. Pakistan had plunged into a spell of political uncertainty on 19th June after Justice Chaudhry ruled that Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani stood disqualified since his conviction for contempt and asked President Asif Ali Zardari to appoint a new premier. A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry issued the verdict in response to several petitions that had challenged National Assembly Speaker Fehmida Mirza's decision not to disqualify Gilani following his conviction nearly two months ago. The bench further held that the post of premier had been vacant since April 26, when another seven-judge bench had convicted Gilani of contempt for refusing to reopen graft cases in Switzerland against President Zardari. The bench directed the election commission to issue a notification stating that Gilani, 60, was no longer a member of parliament.

The judiciary and the government have been in an eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation since December 2009, when the Supreme Court annulled a graft amnesty issued by Pervez Musharraf that apparently benefited Zardari besides some 8,000 others. The Court has since been pressuring the government to reopen the corruption cases against Zardari.

The President of Pakistan enjoys absolute immunity from criminal prosecution under Article 248(2) of the Constitution: "No criminal proceedings whatsoever shall be instituted or continued against the President ... in any court during his term of office."

Naturally, Justice Chaudhry has been criticised by the incumbent regime of being selective in the cases he pursues. President Zardari has personally accused him of relentlessly pursuing the government in relation to contempt of court proceedings against Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani - while going slow in pursuit of the killers of his wife, Benazir Bhutto, in 2007. The Supreme Court of Pakistan has historically given legitimacy to military coups and is also said to be dragging its feet over corruption allegations against the intelligence services while doggedly pursuing different corruption cases against the government and for this reason enjoys the tacit support of the military, which has been happy to let it do the work of challenging the government. Despite enjoying the support of lawyers across the country, the Chief Justice has been accused by legal experts of acting in a biased manner against the ruling Pakistan People's Party and especially President Zardari.

Justice Chaudhry's past record indicates a marked preference for military rule - he sat on four pivotal Supreme Court benches between 2000 and 2005 that validated the military takeover by Gen Musharraf, his referendum, his legal framework order (LFO) and the 17th constitutional amendment that gave the president additional powers and allowed him to continue as the army chief. Justice Chaudhry became the country's youngest Chief Justice on 29 July 2004 and retires on 11 December 2013.
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http://ibnlive.in.com/blogs/brijeshkalappa/2992/63695/pakistan-sc-paving-the-way-for-military-rule.html

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an ET story on PPP Senator Faisal Raza Abidi's allegations against Justice Chaudhry:

The senator said that if the chief justice does not tender a resignation, then he will “force him out from the same way he had been restored as a judge.”

“He [Justice Chaudhry] says that he did not have any idea where his son got all that money from…I ask, when the case emerged, did you ask him where he got Rs900 million from?”

The senator produced bank account statements of Dr Arsalan and said that the person who used to “work under somebody else” now owns billions of rupees. He also showed that the billing address mentioned was that of the Chief Justice House in Islamabad.

“You [Justice Chaudhry] are to be blamed for this. This happened right in front of you. You cannot pretend to not know anything. Who gave Dr Arsalan the right to use government’s property for running his own businesses? Could he not rent out an office in some other area?”

He said that he would now “personally” investigate about Dr Arsalan’s assets and will also fly to Dubai and London to inquire about his international bank accounts. “I will probe into the accounts he has activated under the name of mamu.”

Abidi said that the Parliament is supreme and is above other institutions.

“Parliament forms laws and constitutions. Who gave you the right to criticise and meddle in its affairs?”

“I accept your challenge in the war you have waged against the parliament. But mine is not a war of arms, but is a war of words, because Pakistan cannot afford agitation at this moment as it is already going through tough times.”


http://tribune.com.pk/story/417885/faisal-raza-abidi-demands-chief-justices-resignation/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an Express Tribune report on Aitazaz Ahsan criticizing Pakistan Supreme Court judges in an interview with BBC:

Senior Pakistan Peoples Party leader Senator Aitzaz Ahsan has said that, in some matters, the judiciary is stepping out of the domain of the constitution and is getting ‘too independent.’

In an interview with the BBC Urdu on Tuesday, he said that the Supreme Court’s activism is one sided and not equal for all aspects.

“Judiciary is independent, it is too much independent, actually it is getting ‘free’ of the constitution in some matters,” stated Aitizaz.

Pointing towards the supremacy of the Parliament, he said that the parliament can make amendments in the Constitution with a two-third majority, and this cannot be challenged in court.

Commenting on the role of Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, Ahsan said that the fromer’s gallant role against former president General (r) Pervez Musharraf had served to strengthen the democratic setup in the country, but subsequent actions had prompted people to question the judiciary.

Some judgements passed by the Supreme Court recently eliminated any possibility of the country returning to martial law and, therefore, there is no chance of the military taking over in the future, Ahsan noted.

On former Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani’s disqualification by the SC, the Barrister said that he believed dismissing Gilani was a wrong decision, adding that the case was not a matter of disqualification, rather it was an issue related to the jurisdiction of the judiciary.

He questioned that how could the court ask to open a case against the President in a foreign court while the Constitution clearly granted him immunity?

Ahsan said that the stance taken by the Chief Justice in a speech that the judiciary can stop the Parliament from a Constitutional amendment clashes with the Supreme Court’s own decisions. He added that the apex court can review the amendments made through simple majority for any discrepancy within existing articles of the constitution, however, an amendments passed with a two-third majority cannot be challenged in the court.

Talking about the controversial Arsalan Iftikhar case, he said that the proceedings against the CJ’s son had raised questions about the court’s impartiality. He said that the present the judiciary is diverting from the prevailing principles of investigation into Arsalan’s alleged dealings with Malik Riaz Hussain.

On his movement for the restoration of judges, Ahsan said he had no regrets and that it was a movement for the victory of the people.

PPP to win next elections

Speaking on the upcoming general elections, the Barrister said that the PPP would not only win but also be able to form a government since President Asif Ali Zardari has now the experience of forming a hung parliament.


http://tribune.com.pk/story/419030/supreme-court-getting-too-free-stepping-out-of-constitutional-domain-aitzaz/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a BBC report on Indian govt blocking or censoring social media following panic exodus on NE migrants from Bangalore:

Indian authorities have cracked down on social networking sites following unrest and an exodus of migrant workers fearing revenge attacks.

The government threatened legal action against the websites if they did not remove "inflammatory" content.

Facebook and Google have removed some material, but only in cases where it broke rules on hate speech and inciting violence.

The government said Twitter's response had been "extremely poor".

However, it acknowledged this "may be in part because they don't have an office in India".

Twitter could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.
Doctored videos

Authorities claim that threatening messages and pictures - which they allege have mostly originated in Pakistan - have been sent over the web to migrant workers following clashes between tribes in the north-east Indian state of Assam last month.

Fearing more violence against ethnic minorities, thousands of people have fled the cities of Bangalore and Pune in recent days.

The government has said social networking sites were used for scaremongering.
----------
It is an unwelcome distraction as India tries to position itself as a developing hub for hi-tech business and commerce in Asia.

Google has said that between July and December 2011 there was a 49% jump in requests from India for content to be removed from its services, compared with the previous six months.

In 2011, the government sought greater access to the tight security system used on Blackberry smartphones.


http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-19343887

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an ET story on Asma Janahangir's concerns about how the Supreme Court is handling corruption allegations against Chief Justice's son:

Leading human rights lawyer Asma Jahangir on Monday raised questions about the role of the Supreme Court regarding Dr Arsalan Iftikhar’s case.

Asma, a former president of the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA), also suggested inviting a Scotland Yard (metonym for the headquarters of the Metropolitan Police Service of London) team to probe the case if the country’s institutions were not deemed trustworthy by the judiciary.

Talking to reporters at the Lahore High Court premises, Asma alleged the court was not meeting the requirements of delivering justice in the case against Arsalan in the Bahria Town scandal. She also rejected the appointment of Federal Tax Ombudsman Dr Mohammad Shoaib Suddle, the officer tasked by the apex court to investigate the case, after it barred the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) from investigating the matter. She alleged that the apex court wanted to influence the investigations, as Suddle is said to have close links with Arsalan.

“The Supreme Court should ask the Scotland Yard to conduct the investigation into Arsalan Iftikhar’s case, if it has no confidence in the national institutions,” she said. Asma pointed out that Suddle also regularly accompanied Arsalan at various events. Therefore, he could not be expected to conduct a transparent investigation into the case.

Asma said Arsalan should, however, be given the benefit of the doubt. But she also reiterated that everyone should be treated equally under the law.

Criticising the court, she said if there were any questions over the NAB’s investigation team, then it could have been changed instead of forming a new inquiry team.


http://tribune.com.pk/story/430946/arsalan-iftikhar-case-asma-questions-suddles-appointment/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's ET on Facebook and Linked-in user population in Pakistan:

Users of social networking website Facebook in Pakistan have crossed the eight million mark, revealed statistics provided by Social Bakers. The number of Pakistani Facebook users stands at 8,008,720.

The steady increase in users has put Pakistan at 28th place in the ranking of countries that use Facebook.

The highest number of Facebook users (more than 160 million) is in the United States, followed by Brazil with more than 63 million and India with more than 62 million users.

According to the statistics, the total number of Facebook users in Pakistan grew by more than 1,383,900 in the last six months.

The statistics revealed that the age group with the highest number of Facebook users in Pakistan (3,990,800) lies in the age bracket of 18-24 and the second largest group in the age of 25-35.

According to the data, more men use Facebook in Pakistan than women.

Around 70% Facebook users are male, while 30% are female.

LinkedIn

The number of LinkedIn users in Pakistan has reached 1,472,143 (more than one million), as revealed by Social Bakers.

Pakistan stands at rank 10 among all countries that use LinkedIn.


http://tribune.com.pk/story/486676/pakistan-crosses-8-million-facebook-users/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Jurist Op Ed by Ali Dayan Hasan of Human Rights Watch:

So, why is it such a relief to see Chaudhry go?

Pakistan's tenaciously independent chief justice also turned out to be political, arbitrary and irresponsible. Upon returning to office, he presided over the firing of judges without giving them the same due process he had demanded of Musharraf. He refused to accept parliamentary oversight of judicial appointments, threatening to overturn a unanimously passed constitutional amendment to that effect unless it was revised. Parliament complied to avoid a confrontation.

Chaudhry also made unprecedented use of suo motu proceedings—the court acting on its own motions—to engage in unwarranted intrusion into the legitimate domain of the legislature and the executive. Suo motu proceedings in defense of fundamental rights are good, but in case after case Chaudhry acted as if the Supreme Court was not a co-equal branch of government but a de facto legislature and executive branch.

Further, Chaudhry used his discretionary powers to oversee, hire and fire government officials, intervening in governance areas ranging from economic policy to traffic management. He seemed to relish triggering constitutional confrontations with parliament and government, undermining the elected parliament and disrupting governance just when Pakistan was undergoing a difficult transition to civilian rule.

In just one example, in December 2011, Chaudhry embroiled the Supreme Court in the "Memogate" scandal by agreeing to investigate Pakistan's former ambassador to the US on charges that he attempted to conspire with the US against Pakistan's military. Such an investigation was the responsibility of the government, not the Supreme Court. However, showing his biases, Chaudhry did not investigate allegations from the same source that the head of Pakistan's security services, the Inter-Services Intelligence, had conspired to oust the elected government.

In June 2012, a Supreme Court bench headed by Chaudhry took the unprecedented step of firing Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani for "scandalizing the judiciary." Gilani had refused to sign a letter to the Swiss government asking for an investigation into corruption allegations against then-president Asif Zardari, even though the Swiss government said that it would not act on such a letter. Chaudhry's order appeared to be an attempt to settle a personal score—many independent observers called the move a "judicial coup." After all the controversy about the way Musharraf had sidelined the judiciary, the government decided to avoid a constitutional crisis and nominated a new prime minister.

When a corruption scandal involving Chaudhry's son emerged around the same time, Chaudhry first used his suo motu powers to seize judicial control of the investigation and then effectively prevented the investigation from proceeding.

Chaudhry treated attempts at oversight or accountability of the judiciary, however reasonable or justified, as a personal attack. He muzzled media criticism by the use or threatened use of overbroad "contempt laws."

While Chaudhry lashed out at his critics, access to justice in Pakistan remained abysmal and the courts remained rife with corruption and incompetence. Case backlogs stayed huge at all levels of the court system.

Chaudhry's supporters make much of his credentials as a champion of human rights causes. He deserves credit for standing up to a military dictator. He took a strong stand on government abuses in Balochistan and demanded the return of terrorism suspects forcibly disappeared by the military. However, after his much-publicized hearings into arbitrary arrests or disappearances, no military or intelligence officer was held accountable, even though he "loudly opined" in court that the military had been responsible..


http://jurist.org/hotline/2014/01/ali-hasan-iftikhar-chaudhry.php

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt of a NY Times Op Ed by Bina Shah on new media censorship in Pakistan:

But having experienced decades of political oppression and dictatorship, Pakistanis are used to finding alternative ways to get access to and spread information. So when YouTube was shuttered, they started using proxies to gain access to it, while also uploading to other video-sharing sites.

Of course, the government began blocking the most popular proxies, but couldn’t always keep up. Even today, YouTube occasionally becomes accessible on some Internet providers for a few hours.

In any event, young Pakistanis, having been raised on satellite television, the Internet and smartphones, already have an insatiable thirst for information and the public space in which to think freely. So their appetite has been whetted, and many of them now are challenging the establishment’s societal mores.

“We are building a movement of defiance among the youth and larger Internet users by providing them tools to circumvent the government’s policy of censorship,” says Shahzad Ahmad, the country director of Bytes4All, an organization of young Pakistanis who use digital technology to promote human rights and sustainable development.

Since 2012, Bytes4All has been petitioning the Lahore High Court for a writ against the ban on YouTube, and lately the issue has become dramatically politicized; Mr. Ahmad has accused government lawyers of threatening that if YouTube is opened, there will be “bloodshed on the streets of Pakistan.”

Anusha Rehman Khan, state minister for information technology and telecom, was ordered to appear at a hearing in March, but failed to show up; it was the third time she had done so. Instead, lawyers from banned religious outfits appeared in court, an indication of how far the government would go to sway the judges and intimidate Bytes4All.
---------
Alongside the legal battle, an irreverent social media campaign called #KholoBC has also emerged. Engineered by the Pakistan for All movement, a collective of young Pakistani tech enthusiasts, it features a song released by the Pakistani musician Talal Qureshi, the rapper Adil Omar and the comedian Ali Gul Pir with lyrics too rude to print in this newspaper. (So is a translation of the campaign’s name.) Ziad Zafar, the head of Pakistan for All, says the vigilante-style campaign has been successful on social media, and has struck a nerve in the government: A senior figure in the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, the party of Nawaz Sharif, the prime minister, complained to Ali Gul Pir about being “mocked” in the video.

Officials repeatedly assure the public that YouTube will be unblocked soon, even as the government tries to build a huge firewall modeled on the one in China. It’s a cat-and-mouse game that speaks volumes about the impossibility of damming up an ocean, but also about the amount of energy the government is willing to expend trying.

Technology-savvy Pakistanis are determined to thwart the government’s dreams of a toothless Internet, even though, as Mr. Ahmad says, “In Pakistan, there will always be a reason to block the Internet.” Needless to say, any videos that are part of the movement have to be posted on Vimeo, Dailymotion and other sites, because they still can’t legally be seen on YouTube.


http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/11/opinion/shah-trying-to-dam-a-digital-sea.html?smid=tw-share&_r=0

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an interesting piece from Columbia Journalism Review (CJR) on Pakistani media:

Pakistan’s raucous and increasingly lethal media sector is exerting a powerful effect on decision-making in the country, even though journalists themselves are divided on whether their influence is positive or negative. That’s the key finding of a survey of more than 350 Pakistani journalists, policymakers, and academics. ..... More than two-thirds of policymakers surveyed said the media has a “significant” effect on their decision-making and 94 percent said they “always” or “sometimes” take media reaction into account before making a decision. That group includes current and former government officials and analysts at policy think tanks and civil society organizations. Those policymakers actually have a more positive view of the media than journalists themselves. More journalists and academics believe the media makes societal divisions worse than say media helps heal those divisions; it’s exactly the reverse among policymakers. Likewise, far more policymakers than journalists and academics believe the impact of private TV has been positive. Pakistani foreign and domestic policies are inextricably linked, shaped by a complex web of political, military, and sectarian factors. Media is one element in that equation. Just over half the journalists defined as “significant” the media’s impact on relations with the U.S. and with India, Pakistan’s key rival for power in South Asia; policymakers and academics agreed with the journalists regarding the U.S., but slightly more than half the policymakers and academics said the media’s influence was “minimal” or “none” when it came to relations with India. All three groups surveyed are united in overwhelmingly believing the media has played a “significant” role in exposing corruption, though a sizable minority of journalists were more cynical, seeing their role as “insignificant.” Pakistan is locked in a virtual civil war with Islamist militants, both home-grown and from Afghanistan. Even on this complicated issue, more than one-third of those surveyed from each group believes the media has a “significant” impact on relations with the militants, who recently issued a fatwa against the media, which it declared to be a “party” to “this war on Islam.” The willingness of Pakistani journalists to speak truth to power has consistently proven lethal. In the four years since TV deregulation sparked an explosion of private television channels, there have been almost twice as many deaths as the previous decade, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, the most infamous of which was the 2011 torture and murder of investigative reporter Saleem Shahzad, who, like Hamid Mir, claimed he had been threatened by Pakistan’s ISI military intelligence wing, but who also had just published a book on the Taliban and al-Qaeda. Yet the complex calculation involved in determining what kinds of stories could prove fatal and which push the envelope just short of that point is reflected in the responses to the question, “Can journalists report sensitive stories without fear of reprisals?” Almost 30 percent of journalists responded “yes,” double the percentage of policymakers and academics who thought that was the case, and another 30 percent of journalists said they could “sometimes” tackle such stories. Pakistan is a nation of contradictions, not least when it comes to the news industry. Nothing better sums up those contradictions than the response to the question: “Should government officials mislead the media if they think it is in the national interest?” At a time when Pakistani journalists are dying in the pursuit of truth, the response seemed to turn reality on its head: More policymakers than journalists said “no,” the government should not have that right.

http://www.cjr.org/behind_the_news/media_policy_and_conflict_in_p.php

Riaz Haq said...

Here's NY Times' Declan Walsh on the Hamid Mir Affair:

...The vituperative exchanges have exposed troubling aspects of Pakistan’s oft-lauded media revolution: Along with the military’s concerted campaign to muzzle the press is the heavy hand of querulous media barons who, driven by commercial concerns and personal grudges, may be endangering the sector they helped create.

“The way this has played out is extremely disturbing,” said Zaffar Abbas, editor of Dawn newspaper, one of the few media outlets that have stayed out of the dispute. “I’ve never seen the media like this, really going after one other. If better sense doesn’t prevail, whatever we have earned in press freedom will be lost.”

The stakes are high on all sides. Since 2007, when television coverage played a key role in fanning the street protests that led to the ouster of General Musharraf, the news media has grown into a powerful factor in Pakistani society. Television news has widened public debate and exposed abuses, but it has faced sharp criticism for shoddy reporting and for giving a platform to Islamist extremists.

The exploding market has also turned prime-time talk show hosts like Mr. Mir into powerful figures, and made fortunes for a handful of newly minted media tycoons.

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“It is supremely dangerous to be a reporter in Pakistan,” he said.

The military, in particular, has squirmed under the media’s relentless scrutiny. Tensions have been bubbling for some time between the Jang Group, the country’s largest media conglomerate, and the ISI. Jang is owned by Mir Shakil ur-Rehman, a reclusive editor who lives with his two wives in Dubai, where he keeps a tight grip on a media empire that includes Geo News, several sports and entertainment channels, and a stable of newspapers in Urdu and English.

Last fall, Mr. Rehman came to believe that the ISI was sponsoring a new television station, Bol, to dilute his commercial and political clout. His newspapers ran hostile reports about Bol, prompting competing media organizations to hit back with stories that painted Geo as sympathetic to Pakistan’s old rival, India.
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Unlike in the Musharraf era, when journalists united against military attempts to muzzle them, virulent rivalries between the businessmen who own the major stations have pulled the news media apart.

Mr. Rehman of the Jang group has a rancorous relationship with Sultan Lakhani, who owns the smaller Express media group, which includes a television station and several newspapers. (One of those papers, the English-language Express Tribune, prints The International New York Times in Pakistan.) A third station, ARY, is owned by a family of gold dealers that has little love for Mr. Rehman.

“The control of the owners and their say in what happens has increased tremendously,” said one editor, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “No editor or journalist can take a stand against them.”

The turmoil has partly obscured the plight of Mr. Mir, who has an ambiguous history with the ISI. He shot to prominence after interviewing Osama bin Laden in 1998, and was initially seen as sympathetic to the pro-jihadi agenda of the Pakistani military and the ISI. But in recent years he has championed the cause of Baluch nationalists, angering the army, and highlighted human rights abuses during military operations.

He is now under close protection at a Karachi hospital, where flowers are piled outside his door and doctors report a steady recovery. In a statement issued through his brother, Mr. Mir vowed to “continue the fight for the rights of people till my last breath and last drop of blood.”....


http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/27/world/asia/attack-on-journalist-starts-battle-in-pakistani-press.html

Riaz Haq said...

QUETTA: The provincial government has appointed Arsalan Iftikhar, son of former chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, as vice-chairman of the Balochistan Investment Board.

The Chief Minister’s Finance Adviser Mir Khalid Khan Langove had announced in his budget speech the provincial government’s plan to set up the board headed by Chief Minister Dr Abdul Malik Baloch.

“Yes, Arsalan Iftikhar has been appointed vice-chairman of the Balochistan Investment Board,” Finance Secretary Mushtaq Ahmed Raisani confirmed to Dawn on Wednesday.

He said it would be an “honorary post without salary and allowances” and the vice chairman would preside over the meetings of the investment board in the absence of the chairman (chief minister).

The board will have 12 members. “The names of other members are likely to be announced soon,” the secretary said.


http://www.dawn.com/news/1115178/arsalan-gets-top-post-in-investment-board

Riaz Haq said...

Fox guarding the chicken coup? CJ Chaudhry's son Arsalan Iftikhar's appointment as chief of Balochistan investment board means he will be in charge of deciding who gets the licenses to extract vast gold, copper and other mineral deposits of the resource-rich province of Pakistan....what a rip-off...

Riaz Haq said...

Washington: Television rules the media domain in Pakistan with more than three-fourths of adult population relying on it for news and information, according to a recent US survey.
"Television is by far the most important platform for news and information.
"We see that even when power is in short supply, people still find a way to watch," William Bell, director of audience insights at the US Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) said.

BBG released media research data found that 76.2 per cent of adult population watches TV while mobile phones were also becoming more common, signalling a possible shift in the way Pakistanis engage with media.
But there is a significant gap in information access between those with access to cable (45 per cent) and satellite (14 per cent), who have a much broader level of access, compared to those with only terrestrial (21 per cent) or no TV, Bell added.
The data found that Pakistani adults relied less on new media, and mobiles are not yet widely used for Internet access.
Although the majority of Pakistani adults (56 per cent) report having a mobile phone, the phones are commonly used primarily for sending messages or making calls, the report said.
"Mobile has a lot of room to grow, as 3G is just now taking off in Pakistan," said Bell.
Pakistani adults who did consume media on less popular platforms such as radio and Internet tended to do so on their mobile devices.
Mobile is the main medium of listening to the radio (62 per cent of radio listeners).

http://www.firstpost.com/world/tv-most-important-platform-for-news-info-in-pakistan-1761865.html

Riaz Haq said...

“Television is by far the most important platform for news and information. We see that even when power is in short supply, people still find a way to watch,” said William Bell, director of audience insights at the BBG. Bell added that there is a significant gap in information access between those with access to cable (45%) and satellite (14%), who have a much broader level of access, compared to those with only terrestrial (21%) or no TV.

The data found that Pakistani adults relied less on new media, and mobiles are not yet widely used for Internet access. Although the majority of Pakistani adults (56%%) report having a mobile phone, the phones are commonly used primarily for basic SMS or calling functions.

“Mobile has a lot of room to grow, as 3G is just now taking off in Pakistan,” said Bell. Pakistani adults who did consume media on less popular platforms such as radio and Internet tended to do so on their mobile devices. Mobile is the main means of going online in Pakistan (72% of Internet users) and the main method of listening to the radio (62% of radio listeners).

Both the media survey and the Gallup World Poll show strong regional differences in media consumption and attitudes.

Presenters discussing Pakistan media use. L-R: William Bell, Director of Audience Insights, International Broadcasting Bureau; Rajesh Srinivasan, Regional Research Director - Asia and Middle East, Gallup; Bruce Sherman, Director, Office of Strategy and Development, BBG; Chris Stewart, Partner, Gallup.
Presenters discussing Pakistan media use. L-R: William Bell, Director of Audience Insights, International Broadcasting Bureau; Rajesh Srinivasan, Regional Research Director – Asia and Middle East, Gallup; Bruce Sherman, Director, Office of Strategy and Development, BBG; Chris Stewart, Partner, Gallup.
“Increasing confidence in the national government is the single most striking observation since we started measuring this on the World Poll, and there are regional variations that might be due to exposure to state media,” said Rajesh Srinivasan, regional research director for Asia and Middle East at Gallup. “For example KPK has the lowest confidence in National government and they seem to rely more on State media for news and information.”

The BBG broadcasts to Pakistan with a blend of radio, television, and new media via Voice of America’s Urdu Service, VOA’s Radio Deewa, and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Radio Mashaal.

A research brief and presentation with further information about this data can be found here, and a video of the briefing will be added in the coming days. More information about the BBG’s media research series is available here.

http://www.bbg.gov/blog/2014/10/16/pakistan-remains-tv-market-with-room-for-growth-for-mobile/

Riaz Haq said...

Never before in its media history has Pakistan experienced such a large scale of resignations from top journalists based on the investigations of a foreign newspaper. Some jaded skeptical citizens are complaining why their own secret services and the media organizations are unable to dig out stories as big as the one reported by the NYT. Journalists can be blamed for their inefficiencies but they must be commended for this stance they have taken in the wake of the scandal surrounding BOL. This was probably the most highly paid job these journalists had ever held in their careers. Many of them had worked hard for decades to rise on the top and they had reached here in spite of encountering peer jealousies and frequent criticism. They had already been labeled as greedy and selfish. It must have been a tough decision for many of them but they have surely made the journalism community very proud and instilled a new spirit of hope that journalism is not for sale.

These journalists have set a new precedence for their country's media. They have acted as bravely as the lawyers did in 2007 by standing up against General Musharraf when the former dictator deposed the country's Chief Justice. Many lawyers lost income and missed opportunities to be promoted as judges because of their commitment to the country's constitution. They struggled for two daunting years before General Musharraf was compelled to reinstate the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Today, it was the journalists' turn to show that money did not solely define who they are and what they stand for. Many of them made a decision that they would perhaps never regret.

The resignation episode also comes as a reminder that the media in Pakistan is gradually changing for better. The recent years have seen more journalists coming out and refusing dictations from the military and other non-state actors and now they have said no to a business tycoon who believed he could buy the best of the country's journalists. So, what are the lessons learned from this episode? Husain Haqqani, a former journalist and Pakistan's ex-ambassador to the United States, summarized it this way on Twitter: "Lesson for journo friends from #Bol #Axact saga: When someone offers way more money than market rates, the money is often shady."

The NYT report has pushed the Pakistani media into a new age. One lesson that Pakistan's press corps should learn is that that foreign journalists who produce excellent journalism do not do so on the instructions of any foreign governments or intelligence agencies, as they accused journalist Declan Walsh. Quality journalism is extremely essential for a functioning democracy. Journalists should keep questioning everything and everyone, including themselves, so that a culture of accountably and transparency is developed and promoted.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/malik-siraj-akbar/how-the-axact-scandal-changed-pakistans-media_b_7428644.html

Riaz Haq said...

Humans Of NewYork Photo Coverage help humans in #Pakistan http://on.wsj.com/1JLJLjD via @WSJIndia

Brandon Stanton’s popular Humans of New York website is a photographic tribute to the faces and thoughts of the citizens of Manhattan. But this August, in a sharp departure from his usual stomping ground, the street photographer visited Pakistan.

And, by putting the South Asian nation into the frame, Mr. Stanton said on his website that he’s helped raise more than $2 million for a Pakistani charity.

The former bond trader has attracted an international following for his humansofnewyork.com website, which has more 14 million likes on Facebook, by posting photos of people he meets, along with a quote or short blurb about them.

Following his adventures in Pakistan, Mr. Stanton posted pictures of people with datelines from Karachi to Lahore and the Hunza Valley to Passu.

One photo with a Lahore dateline shows a man and woman standing awkwardly next to each other with the quote: “Our friends are trying to set us up.” In another, with a Passu dateline, a man smiles as he sits next to a wall. The quote says, “I am the happiest man in Pakistan.”

Mr. Stanton also met, photographed and wrote about bonded laborers working in the country’s brick kilns, a woman who needed treatment for Hepatitis C and a man who lost a tractor in an accident and required medical care.

The street photographer’s fans responded to these people’s stories by heaping money onto a fundraising page—set up on a website that allows people to make online payments to support a cause—for the Bonded Labour Liberation Front, posting offers of help for the sick woman and donating more than $6,000 on a fundraising page for the man with the broken tractor.

Mr. Stanton’s post about Syeda Ghulam Fatima, who is general secretary of the Bonded Labour Liberation Front, asked readers to donate to her charity–and the fundraising page that states its organizer is ‘Humans of New York’–shows they pledged more than $2 million after he did so.

The Bonded Labour Liberation Front’s website says its mission is the “total eradication of the bonded labor, injustice, illiteracy inequality and poverty in south Asia.”


A person is described as a bonded laborer when their work is demanded as a means of repayment for a loan. The person is trapped into working for very little or no pay, according to human rights organization antislavery.org.

A post on the Humans of New York Facebook page said Ms. Ghulam Fatima was set to meet with the charity’s board to plan an expansion of the efforts following the influx of money. Mehar Safdar Ali, an executive member of the organization, said its management committee is working on future plans and will announce them when ready.

“We have a lot of work ahead of us, but we want to build a real freedom center in Lahore, here we can work on not just releasing families but rehabilitation. We want workers to be treated with the rights they deserve as citizens,” Ms. Ghulam Fatima said in a statement posted on the Facebook page to thank people for their donations.

“Before this fundraiser, Fatima had exhausted her financial resources in the struggle against bonded labor to the point where she feared that she’d be unable to pay her own medical bills. Thanks to everyone who donated over the past 72 hours, she now has nearly $2 million to continue her organization’s fight against bonded labor,” a post on the Humans of New York Facebook page said.

Mr. Stanton didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Separately, Mr. Stanton’s fans have donated money to help the man who was hurt in the tractor accident. Mr. Stanton quoted the man, whom he didn’t name but was later identified by the Islamabad-based nonprofit Comprehensive Disaster Response Services as Abdul Shakoor, as saying that despite injuries, he was continuing to work. Abdullah Sabir, a 22 year old from Lahore, Pakistan, who works in Internet marketing, said he set up a fundraising page for Mr. Shakoor after reading about him online.

Riaz Haq said...

#India among 3 most dangerous nations for #journalists. India more dangerous than #Pakistan & #Afghanistan @htTweets http://www.hindustantimes.com/india/110-journalists-killed-in-2015-india-deadliest-asian-country/story-7QLJwYGHQiq5EK8vdpPjQN.html …
India was among the three most dangerous countries for journalists in 2015, with nine reporters losing their lives during the year, according to the annual report of Reporters Without Borders released on Tuesday.
The media watchdog said these deaths confirmed “India’s position as Asia’s deadliest country for media personnel, ahead of both Pakistan and Afghanistan”.
Only war-torn Iraq and Syria recorded the deaths of more journalists than India. Four of the nine Indian journalists murdered in the past year were killed “for still undetermined reasons”, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said.
Besides India, the eight other countries where the most journalists were killed are Iraq (11), Syria (10), France (eight), Yemen (eight), Mexico (eight), South Sudan (seven), the Philippines (seven) and Honduras (seven).
A total of 110 journalists were killed in connection with their work or for unclear reasons in 2015, and at least 67 were killed while reporting or because of their work.
“These 67 deaths bring to 787 the total number of journalists killed in connection with their work since 2005,” RSF said in its report.
Indian journalists “daring to cover organised crime and its links with politicians have been exposed to a surge in violence, especially violence of criminal origin, since the start of 2015”, the report said.