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Try making your own! No Laughing Matter: 9 Reasons Why It's Dangerous To Be A Journalist In Pakistan (in Political Cartoons)
Political cartoons are a powerful tool for breaking down society’s complex issues and conflicts. Because of this power, political cartoonists are very often on the frontlines of censorship and repression by governments and authoritarian regimes.
This is the case for Pakistani cartoonist
Sabir Nazar, who is tasked with the job of illustrating the challenges in one of the world’s most dangerous places to be a journalist.
Nazar will present some of his work in a public forum in Washington, DC on July 23, 2014.
1. Pressure to March to the Beat of the Military's Drum.
Despite a 2008 transition from military to civilian rule, Pakistan’s military
remains a powerful player in national politics. Recent government efforts to shut down Geo TV, one of the country’s largest private media broadcasters, were suspected to be related to the station’s critical coverage of the military establishment and its policies. To make matters worse, many other media outlets in Pakistan are allegedly echoing the military’s arguments and voicing support for the station’s closure.
2. Invisible Agencies Watch Over Your Shoulder.
According to a recent report by
Amnesty International, “No state actor is more feared by journalists than the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence of the Pakistan Armed Forces, or ISI.” TV news anchor Hamid Mir alleged that the ISI was behind a recent assassination attempt against him, and the ISI is often suspected of being behind other journalist kidnappings, torture, and disappearances.
3. Regulation – “Bring Out the Number 10 Shoe.”
4. Catering to Religious Extremists.
Religious extremist groups like the Taliban
consider themselves at war with journalists and media outlets who provide critical coverage of their activities—for example, issuing a fatwa against journalists who covered the Taliban’s shooting of Malala Yousafazi. Media outlets and journalists often bow to pressure and refrain from covering terrorist activities in order to avoid a violent backlash. Some segments of the media are even sympathetic to fundamentalist ideology and spin conspiracy theories to justify the activities of extremist groups.
5. Lockdown on Cultural Space.
Certain topics considered too sensitive to be discussed in the media may be censored, such as a recent
article related to the lack of religious freedom in Pakistan. Using religious pretexts, some political parties and religious organizations have pressured the government to ban cultural activities like New York Times kite-flying, public music concerts, and religious dance and music performances at Sufi shrines. In effect, these restrictions limit cultural space and topics that journalists are able to cover.
6. Internet Censorship — Sweeping up the Filth.
Pakistan’s government is developing a number of tools with the potential to censor internet content in Pakistan, including the implementation of
URL filtration technology developed by Netsweeper and a draft cyber crimes law that digital rights activists fear could be used to persecute individuals who publish comments critical of the government or military on social media. YouTube remains restricted since it was blocked in September 2012 over the controversial “Innocence of Muslims” film trailer.
7. Impunity — Cases that Go Cold.
Facing the possibility of beatings, kidnappings, torture, and murder, Pakistan’s journalists have little reason to trust that perpetrators of crimes against them might be brought to justice. Pakistan ranks ninth in the world on the
Committee to Protect Journalists’ 2014 Impunity Index for the number of unsolved journalist murders. Even high-profile international cases, such as the 2002 murder of U.S. journalist Daniel Pearl ( Wall Street Journal), remain unsolved over a decade later.
8. Letters to the Edit(or)…
Facing these pressures, many journalists simply decide that it's safer to stick to "soft" topics, like sports, cooking, and pop culture. Sabir Nazar says that if he's not able to publish what he really wants to say, then he would rather not publish anything at all.
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