Is is time the PPP’s Sindh leadership owned up to its petty war on Jang as well as Geo and ARY. While the channels are back on air, no sane mind will believe that the party workers acted on their own, pressured the cable operators to pull the plug and burnt copies of the paper without a wink from the party’s provincial hierarchy.
Though it was not countrywide and was confined to Karachi and parts of Sindh, the unannounced Geo and ARY blackout constituted an attack on press freedom and a slur on a party that is in power because the people voted for it. Its commitment to press freedom in the party’s foundation documents and its various election manifestoes is categorical. During the 2007 lawyers’ movement, especially after the Nov 3 emergency, when the Musharraf government ordered the banning of many channels and policemen ransacked TV offices, the PPP leaders were among those who criticised the military government’s war on the media and the harsh Pemra guidelines that followed. That the PPP should itself now persecute sections of the media is astonishing.
One may have reservations about the way some newspapers and channels have gone overboard about the Birmingham incident and reported the incident out of proportion. To that extent the PPP workers’ anger is understandable. But the best response would have been to ignore the aberration rather than impart new dimensions to the incident and create a crisis that turned out to be counterproductive for the party and the government. We demand that the PPP leaders restrain their workers and refrain from clamping down on the media in this manner in future. At a time when floods are ravaging the country, and hundreds of thousands are without food and shelter, the government should seek the mediaÂ’s help for mobilising national and international efforts for mitigating their suffering instead of trying to intimidate it.