Oppression by dictators of Mass media under military rule
Mass media under military rule: The Press before the partition Contend against the British rule and had a huge role of mobilization among the public for their rights. Muslim Press before the partition was impressive and there were many prominent newspapers, magazines which were working. Al-Hilal was founded, edited and published by Maulana Abul Kalam Azad. Zamindar was edited by Maulana Zafar Ali Khan, Nawa-i-Waqt was edited by Hameed Nizami, Ehsan was published and edited by Maulana Murtaza Khan Maikash. The daily Dawn was published from Delhi. It was founded by the Quaid-I-Azam.
In 1947, a few months before the creation of Pakistan the founder of nation Quaid-I-Azam fully supported and empowered the local and national press. Jinnah said that he welcomed criticism. “If I go wrong, or for that matter, the League goes wrong in any direction of its policy or program, I want you to criticize it honestly as its friend, in fact, as one whose heart is beating with the Muslim nation.” And right after the independence, he said “I believe in criticizing the government freely and frankly, but at the same time that it is the duty of every educated man to support the government when the government is right” (Jinnah, 1947)
The dynamics for press changed after the early death of Muhammad Ali Jinnah. The press became the target of hate and distrust for the rulers. The law which was rejected by Quaid-I-Azam got signed by Khawaja Nazim-ud-Din and appeared as Public safety ordinance in October 1948. The real twist came when Anti-Ahmadiya agitation erupted in Lahore. During a scuffle with the agitators, a police officer was killed, giving the situation an ugly turn and on March 6, 1953, martial law was declared throughout the city of Lahore with the General Officer Commanding (GOC) Major general Muhammad Azam Khan, as the Chief Administrator of Martial Law. (Iqbal, 2011)
A past master in showmanship, General Azam used his opportunity to the maximum advantage and emerged as the most publicized general of the Pakistan (Burki, 1991) After the imposition of Martial law, complete censorship on the press was imposed in the city, which had bulk of the national and almost the whole of the opposition press ( Cohen, 1984)
1953 onwards Major general Muhammad Azam Khan got so popular and can be seen in public events and gatherings as a guest. Military top leadership controlled the press, news stories and column has to be approved first before publishing. The press became pro-military and on front pages of the newspaper, there were images of the top leadership of the military. The perception changed in this time period and people start thinking that Military government is the only solution and competent, Politicians are incompetent, disloyal and not suitable for the country. All these steps were taken while using the press to make a mind of the general public.
General Ayub Khan and the role of Press
In a nutshell, the appearance of the press as a fighting force that emerged during the colonial regime disappeared in the first decade after the creation of Pakistan. (Iqbal, 2011) The Stage was set for General Ayub Khan and he grabs it well, Because of events and suppression of the press in the last couple of years before 1958, there was no resistance on imposing of Martial Law by Ayub.
After 11 years of birth of Pakistan, it was taken over by the doctorial government in spite of democratic government. In Ayub Khan Regime press had faced intense censorships and media was not allowed to capture and report freely. 1962 Press Publication Ordinance (PPO) was implemented by the government which was made for empowering press but unfortunately, it is considered as “Black Law” in the history of the press. It restricted press to highlight issues of governance, corruption and mismanagement within the government. The 1962 (PPO) did not empower press but it empowered authorities which ensure them legal support so, they can easily control and minimize the retaliation from the press. All these steps were taken to prolong the tenure of field marshal General Ayub Khan.
In this era a large number of newspapers were close down, many news providers and journalists were arrested. Majority of newspapers were nationalized, Government took over the control of two main news agencies. All these things made press in difficulties and a huge question mark on their survival. Circulation of the newspaper was damaged, reporters were not allowed to submit their stories without the consent of the government. The private press was struggling and few of them closed because of huge financial loss. The other private press was pushed into the severe crisis that they had no other option left so, they started taking funding from the government to run their press.
Radio Pakistan and PTV were under strict control and they became the mouth piece of the government. The basic right of Media “Right to information” and “Freedom of expression” continuously violated by the military rule. In 1964, National Press Trust (NPT) was established and all the PPL papers were handover to NPT. This organization had the right to take over any newspaper, magazine which is apparently, financially not stable to run further or the newspaper is creating a security risk.
Progressive Papers Limited (PPL) was the first victim of National Press Trust because Ayub Khan and his government know PPL strength and worth. It was an organization of press by Fiaz Ahmad Fiaz and Syed sibit Hussain who were heavily tortured before as well because they strictly wrote against the Ayub Khan and his rule. They wrote in favour of democracy and democratic government. Publications under PPL was Amroz, Pakistan Times and Lael o Nahar.
In 1968, the government and its controlled press celebrated “A decade of development” in which Radio Pakistan and Pakistan national television played a role of spokesperson of the government. On the other hand, journalists and civil society protested against it and they paid the huge cost in terms of arrest, financial loss and physical torture for doing protest and raising voice against the dictator and his forcefully implemented policies which were suppressing press as well as the general public.
General Zia ul Haq treatment with Press
On 5 July, 1977 the one person who single-handedly changed Pakistan, perhaps forever, but certainly for some decades, was the military dictator, General Mohammad Zia ul Haq (Dawn, 2017) General Zia said “he had done so only to defend democracy and for the well-being (baqa’a) of Pakistan, that he had no political ambitions whatsoever, and that he would leave his post of Chief Martial Law Administrator (CMLA) after three months. The infamous 90 days and hand over power to Pakistan’s elected representatives” (Haq, 1977)
Islamization of Zia ul Haq put Pakistan fifty years back. In his era, he uses the name of Islam to extend his power and control our country. Biased reporting and full of hate content was spread among masses with the help of the press. He marginalized the ethnic minorities, religious minorities and political minorities. The mass killing of Shias, Ahmadis and Hazars. Torture cells were made to physically and mentally torture journalists, people from press and news agencies, and left-wing politicians.
In Zia ul Haq rule, Pakistan army was labelled as Punjabi Army for the first time. Zia Ul Haq used tribal people to fight in the Afghan war by taking money from America. In his tenure, the sectarian violence and ethnic divide increased a lot. “Sunnism” was promoted were as other communities were marginalized on the pressure of Saudi Arabia. Throughout his rule, he seems to be very much influenced by Arabs.
In October 1979, Zia Ul Haq moved one step further towards converting Pakistan into a totalitarian state, clamping a ban on the political activities of opposition and gagging the press with imprisonments and the flogging of journalists in the public. The flogging of journalists made an intense impact on the journalist community. People from the press started hiding themselves, their lives and families were threaten on a regular basis if they were raising voice against the government’s wrong policies. On the other hand, a large amount of money was distributed among journalists who were on the payroll and setting agendas for the dictator.
The hate towards different communities and sects spread through the press. Zia Ul Haq and his companions hijacked press and forced them to publish content which is in the favour of the government. They gave free hand to religious militants and military generals to do whatever they want no one can question them. If someone dares to ask a question would be punished or can be killed too. In Zia’s regime, the corruption was at its peak and the press was not allowed to report or even highlight it. Laws were made to suppress women and to get support from religious groups. Law of Evidence, Hudood Ordinance and Zina Ordinance were criticized a lot.
Zia Ul Haq not only pressurized and punished journalists but his government and funded groups physically destroyed the printing machines, Television sets, cameras. The circulation of newspapers who were writing against the dictatorship was gone down. Many journalists left Pakistan including Faiz Ahmad Faiz. Under Zia regime, the order for women to cover their heads while in public was implemented in public schools, colleges and for state televisions. Female journalists were fired from jobs. Women’s participation in any outdoor sports and the performing arts was severely restricted.
“In the past, journalists were victimized by the governments and sensitive agencies through traditional tactics such as imprisonment and assault and now the tactics to influence the journalists have changed (Askari, 2011)
Development of Mass media in General Pervez Musharraf ERA
12 October 1999 Chief of Army Staff and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, General Pervez Musharraf, seized the control of the civilian government of publicly elected Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and imposed Martial Law in Pakistan. He promised that he will make corrupt people accountable and punished them. There was virtually no public protest against the coup, and some demonstrators celebrated Mr Nawaz Sharif’s demise, including one group near Parliament House in Islamabad (Wikipedia, 2007)
The first thing which Military bureaucracy did after taking over is to control over the Radio Pakistan and Pakistan Television (PTV). They took control and strict check on the Press that nothing should be published without their permission. Journalists were arrested some of them were misplaced in Pervaiz Musharraf era.
Drone attacks in Waziristan, issue of missing persons, the trend of the suicide bomb blast, Akbar Bugti murder case, Lal Masjid, Lawyers movement, 12 October killings in Karachi and operation in the north were the major events of his tenure. Media covered all these events but, the journalists and media groups who investigated thoroughly and pointed out the mistakes, wrong policies of government have faced crisis later in different forms.
On drone attacks, the media always reported what they were asked to report. Same is the case with the Akbar Bugti murder and missing persons where actual facts were not presented in front of the public. During the darkest days of the Musharraf rule, dozens of offices of the private TV channels were attacked, hundreds of reporters were beaten and arrested and their equipment sealed (Dawn, 2007)
In 2002, Pakistan Electronic Media and Regulation Authority (PEMRA) was established under Musharraf rule. They gave more than fifty news channels license because of International pressure. Also, Pakistan had to counter Indian private sector media as well. The strict laws were made under the PEMRA rule to control media in the name of the regulation. Like there was a law that PEMRA can shut down any channels live coverage if they feel it is inappropriate or on the base of national security.
Jang media group remained the victim under Musharraf’s dictatorship. Couple of times coverage of the Geo network was shut down even once it was operating from UAE. The other way the government dominate with the help of cable operators. They shifted their channel numbers. Ministry of Information was created and there was a secret fund which is allocated to the ministry which is in their hands. That secret fund was used to corrupt journalists, media channels and different newspapers to gain their support for their personal motives and to extend the duration of their tenure. Yellow journalism also remained on the peak during the Musharraf tenure.
The resistance of journalists was there against dictatorship. There is no doubt in that overall mass media flourished under Musharraf rule, but at the same time, there were laws which made it worse. It was written that the Government had an authority to close the transmission of any channel, the Government may also cancel the license of the media group at any time.
There is one interesting fact is that in General Ayub Khan’s rule the resistance was lowest as compared to other military rules, but the resistance came from both right-wing and left-wing. On the other hand, General Zia Ul Haq got huge support from right-wing politicians and religious groups who supported him till his death. His main focus was to suppress journalists and left-wing political parties mostly.
There are prominent personalities who faced extreme threats by dictators. But they showed great courage and fight against all the odds and raised their voice in the favour of democracy and civilian supremacy.
Iqbal Bano became a cult icon once she roused a powerful crowd of fifty thousand individuals in Lahore by singing Faiz’s overzealous Urdu anthem, Hum Dekhenge (We can See), despite the poet’s works being prohibited by General Zia ul-Haq’s military regime on the grounds of his shut ties with Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. In due course, she generated a lot of and a lot of public attractiveness and have become a specialist in singing the kalam of Faiz Ahmad Faiz and had the ethical spirit to violate the government ban on singing Faiz’s poems. Her inciting ghazals were seen as an act of defiance and resistance (Wikipedia)
Habib Jalib was also one of them who wrote poetry against Ayub Khan and Zia Ul Haq dictatorship.
The light which shines only in palaces, Burns up the joy of the people in the shadows
Derives its strengths from others’ weakness, that kind of system, Like dawn without light, I refuse to acknowledge, I refuse to accept
There is the smoke of tear gas in the air and bullets are raining all around
how can I praise thee? The night of reduced sightedness
Darkness as light, hot desert wind as a morning breeze, how can I write a human as God?
Faiz Ahmad Faiz said:
Bol ke lub azaad hain teray, Bol, ke zubaan ab tak teri hai, Bol, ke sach zinda hai ab tak!
Come, gather your possessions, O people with injured hearts.
Come, O Friends, Let us go and get killed.
Media Student | Mainly interested in current affairs, social issues and sports.