Ahmad Nadeem Gehla
Over the last weeks, television screens have broadcasted the growing and angry media sentiment against government over ban on a talk show of a private TV channel by Dubai authorities. Freedom of expression denotes not only freedom of verbal speech but any act of seeking, receiving and delivering information or ideas. Freedom of expression is closely related to the concept of freedom of conscience and freedom of thought. Article 19 of the Constitution of Pakistan gives powers to the state to restrict the freedom of expression in interest of the glory of Islam or the integrity, security or defense of Pakistan or any part thereof, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality, or in relation to contempt of court, or incitement to an offense.
It is the jurisdiction of the judiciary, which itself has been under strong influence of establishment to decide what restrictions may be placed on freedom of expression. Although these restrictions are not strictly enforced by the judiciary but religious conservative groups in the population enforce these restrictions at will followed by the heavy-handed tactics of the police, the army and the intelligence services to intimidate journalists perceived to cross the ‘limits’. The history and influence of religious extremists in media dates back to the process of the politicization and militarization of religious groups initiated both by national and international actors during cold war. Continue reading