Pakistan: Government issues press advice to newspapers: Suspends advertisements of newspapers that reject advice.
The federal government resorted to the use of press advice and suspension of advertisements to tone down coverage of sectarian violence in the Northern Areas of Pakistan and unrelated incident of alleged gang rape of a lady doctor in a sensitive area of Balochistan province that is suffering from serious law and order problems.
The government advised newspapers in Islamabad not to play up incidents of sectarian violence and to refrain from sensational coverage as it may further inflame tensions between Shiite and Sunni communities in Gilgit, the capital of the Northern Areas of Pakistan. Newspapers with sizable readership in the Northern Areas felt they could not downplay such major incidents and prominently covered the sectarian tensions and violence. In retaliation the government suspended advertisements of eight newspapers it felt were indulging in sensational coverage of the sectarian violence.
In the case of the alleged gang rape, tribesmen of the area accused a member of security forces, although the victim has not been able to identify the assailants. The government asserted that security forces are being accused to pressurize the government in the dispute with the local tribes over natural gas royalties, and advised newspapers not to publish name of the member of the security forces. However, some newspapers ignored the press advice and published the name of the person accused by the local tribes.
The Standing Committee (Executive Committee) of Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors (CPNE) in a resolution passed on January 14 condemned the use of press advice as intervention of government in the affairs of the press. The CPNE also expressed concern over the suspension of government advertisements to newspapers not abiding by the press advice.
The CPNE said although creating sensational coverage was irresponsible; reporting of facts was not only the right of newspapers but also the professional responsibility of the editors.