Attempt to silence the media in Pakistan

Amalendu Upadhyaya
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By Justice Markandey Katju

A disquieting thing happened yesterday.

Three days back a Pakistani journalist Ali Hasnain Shah, who works as a researcher/producer with Khabarhar Team of Aftab Iqbal, called me on WhatsApp and said he wants to take my interview about the recent judgment of the Pakistan Supreme Court depriving Imran Khan's PTI party of its symbol.

I immediately agreed, and shortly thereafter my interview of about 10-12 minutes wes recorded in which I criticised the judgment. I had written an article about it earlier too.

After the interview was recorded I asked Ali Hasnain Shah when will he send me a link so that I can post it on my FB page and Twitter. He said it will be sent the next day after it was edited.

I waited the next day, and messaged him a few times. He replied it was still being edited.

Yesterday morning ( i.e. 2 days after the recording ) I received his message that the editing was complete, and the video link will be sent to me between 9 and 10 a.m.

I waited till 10.30 a.m. and when the link did not come I messaged Ali Hasnain asking as to when was he sending it? He gave no reply. I messaged again several times, but there was no response. I tried to call him on his WhatsApp number, but he would not take my call.

In the evening I received a text message on WhatsApp from him that in view of a government notification forming a JIT ( Joint Investigation Team ) to investigate 'malicious criticism' of Pakistan Supreme Judges and launch criminal prosecutions against the 'offenders', it had been decided not to air my interview, and the link would not be sent to me.

This government notification was evidently issued because there had been tremendous criticism of the Supreme Court judgment in the media and elsewhere. The notification is contained in the article below

This notification, which threatened criminal prosecution of those who criticised Supreme Court Judges, evidently so scared and petrified the team to which Ali Hasnain belonged, that they decided to suppress my interview ( which I had given at their request ).

I responded to the text message of Ali Hasnain by saying that another Pakistani journalist had taken 2 interviews in which I criticised the 3 judges who had given the bat symbol judgment, so what was there to be frightened and terrified about? I whatsapped these 2 interviews to him.

However, despite several more messages by me, and attempts to call him on WhatsApp, there was no response from him and stony silence. I got only one message of only one word from Ali Hasnain 'busy'.

So evidently at the behest of Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa and some of his colleagues, the Pakistan Government has decided to silence people who 'maliciously' criticise them.

There is already a power in the Court to punish for contempt and send to jail those who maliciously criticise judges. So where was the need of this notification ?

Moreover, what is 'malicious'? The word is vague and susceptible to any number of meanings.

In a democracy the people are supreme, and have a right to criticise judges, who are only their servants (like all state authorities).

Evidently, the media and people are being silenced in Pakistan.

(Justice Katju is a retired judge of the Supreme Court of India. These are his personal views.)

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