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Daily Star: Pakistani Media Regulation Borders on Censorship

Author: Huma Yusuf
August 11, 2010

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As Pakistani media have become more influential, government efforts to curtail outlets have become more creative. In early July, the Senate Standing Committee on Information and Broadcasting proposed a new media code of conduct. The bill calls for a ban on graphic footage of terrorist attacks and forbids media from airing the statements of violent extremists.

Although Farahnaz Ispahani, a spokesperson for Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, has insisted that this bill respects media freedom, it includes a clause warning against broadcasting “anything defamatory against the organs of the state.” For this reason, the proposed bill has already been criticized as a new form of censorship.

This bill is a continuation of the state's uneasy relationship with media, which has seen both new freedoms and new restrictions in the past decade. Flipping through Pakistani television channels today, a viewer will catch glimpses of diverse and often contradictory programming: feisty political talk shows, news coverage of brutal terrorist attacks, satirical, anti-government songs and cartoons, music videos, religious programming, footage of scantily clad models at fashion shows and sports.

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