‘Social media helps during censorship’
LAHORE: Social media is one of the tools that helps writers to convey their message to the people at the time of censorship, says Uzbek writer Hamid Ismailov.
Istanbul-based writer and poet Sureyya Evren, Uzbek writer Hamid Ismailov and painter artist Salima Hashmi discussed the topic — Circumnavigating censorship, can art outwit censorship — at the Lahore Literary Festival at Alhamra Arts Council on Saturday.
The session was moderated by Human Rights Commission of Pakistan Secretary General Haris Khalique.
Mr Ismailov said he was a lone banned writer in Uzbekistan for the two decades or so. “Writers have to deal with censorship as they are supposed to be free to write what they want to write. Writers’ thinking and ideas cannot be banned. They break taboos.”
He said since his main readership was in Uzbekistan, he was using the tool of social media to reach out to the people. “Now through social media I reach my audience,” he said.
With regard to propaganda stuff, he was of the view that a writer had a moral judgment towards propaganda and censorship. “My work in my country is considered subversive but actually it shows reality. Writers deal with censorship in different ways and one of them is to write about other countries but actually tell the story of their own country.”
As he was talking about censorship the hall’s light was suspended for a while. Commenting on this in a lighter vein, Mr Ismailov said: “Someone wants to censor us.”
Salima Hashmi said an artist knew how to invent ways to deal with censorship. For example, the whole generation of dictator Ziaul Haq knew how to develop idioms and phrases to convey its message to the public.
Regarding performing arts outwitted by censorship in Pakistan, Ms Hashmi said: “The British laws are still prevalent here for any performance as one has to take NOC (no objection certificate). Usually artists do not stick to particular scripts, making them more relevant to prevailing social and political situations. In such a case, suddenly orders from the authorities stop such performances,” she said.
Despite all such censorships in the country, she said the art managed to survive and thrive even in smaller towns. “There is an aggression against the performers but performance still survived,” she said, citing one such example in which celebrated singer Abida Parveen was stopped from rendition of poetry of Baba Bulleh Shah.
Ms Hashmi also spoke of censorship by the authorities on the exhibition of ‘Killing Fields of Karachi’ in 2019.
Naqeebullah Mehsud — an aspiring model and shopkeeper from South Waziristan — and others were killed in a fake police encounter, led by former SSP [Malik Rao Anwar], in Karachi in 2018. “He killed 400 men and the man from Waziristan and got away with it,” she said without naming Rao.
Sureyya Evren talked about self-censorship by writers. “Authorities should leave it to writers for self-censorship as there is no shame in it. Censorship by the state doesn’t finish the career of a writer. Despite censorship, art and ideas live…take an example of D.H Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover.”