Friday February 23, 2024

Media, NAB and democracy

By Editorial Board
August 12, 2020

Across the country media workers and legal experts have been protesting in all major cities against the continued detention of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, the editor-in-chief of the Jang-Geo Group. It has become blatantly obvious that the detention of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman in a 34-year old case involving land purchase from a private party is not a legal matter alone, and has been seen more as an attempt to place pressure on the Jang Group. Senior journalists and legal experts have said the group has resisted such pressure in the past and would undoubtedly continue to do so. The same issue has been discussed by leading journalists and editors who have noted that Mir Shakil’s arrest which has now lasted almost five months appears to be an attempt to deliver a strong warning that the government is not prepared to withstand criticism.

This raises other questions. Can any state which deliberately suppresses the voices of dissent over the media (including social media) truly call itself democratic? The National Accountability Bureau has been the focus of much critique the past few months for the perception that it is being used as a main tool against the opposition. Despite coming under severe criticism from the court, NAB has not altered its policies. There has been an outcry across the world over the actions being taken to clamp down on media freedom and by doing so denying the people of Pakistan their right to information.

We would all agree that accountability is badly needed in our country where there is a tradition of corruption and nepotism in many walks of life. But such accountability must be carried out across the board and in a manner that makes it transparent to citizens. There has been incredible pressure on the media, something that can only harm democracy and accountability. There is already a great deal of frustration and anger among people. If they feel they cannot even speak out, the problems will only grow. A change in policy is required before this happens.