Tag Archives: Censor

The Hamid Mir case: ‘In Pakistan, they used to censor journalists – now they shoot us’

Hamid Mir
Hamid Mir

On Saturday in Karachi, one of Pakistan’s most famous journalists survived being shot six times. Soon after, the TV news channel he works for blamed the feared Inter-Services Intelligence agency for the attack. Author Mohammed Hanif reports on a fourth estate under siege

By , The Guardian

More than a hundred bouquets line the lobby of the private ward of Karachi’s posh, private Aga Khan Hospital. Outside, dozens of policemen with bulletproof vests and automatic weapons look at every visitor suspiciously, officers speaking urgently into their walkie-talkies. The Karachi police force is really good at strutting about after a high-profile crime has happened. One of the largest bouquets in the lobby is from the force. “Get well Hamid Mir,” it says. “We may not be able to protect you,” it implies, “but we know where to order the best flowers.”

Mir is upstairs recuperating. He took six bullets – in the ribs, thigh, stomach and across his hand – in an assassination attempt on Saturday as he came out of the airport to present a special broadcast on Geo, Pakistan‘s largest news channel. Mir had warned about a possible assassination. He had also named his would-be killers. That’s what his brother claims, that’s what his colleagues and managers at the channel say. Geo, just after the attack, broadcast the allegation and, in an unprecedented move, also flashed the picture of the accused: the head of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence chief, Lieutenant General Zaheer ul-Islam. In that picture he comes across as a big man. We are not supposed to know much about him except the fact that he is a very professional general. According to an internet myth very popular in Pakistan, the ISI has been rated as the world’s No 1 intelligence agency: Mossad is No 5 and MI6 languishes at No 9. According to television ratings, the man with three bullets still in his body is Pakistan’s top-rated TV journalist and one of the most vocal critics of Pakistan’s military and intelligence agencies.

One of the modest bouquets wishing Mir a full and speedy recovery is from the prime minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif, who visited him in the hospital earlier this week after announcing a judicial inquiry. Going by the history of judicial inquiries in Pakistan, Sharif seemed to be saying: “Look Hamid, we want you to get well but don’t really expect us to find out who tried to kill you. Who is going to go and ask a working general? Meanwhile, here are three senior judges who will help you get over the whole thing.”

The day after the assassination attempt, Pakistan’s army chief General Raheel Sharif visited the ISI headquarters to show that he stands with his intelligence boss.

And the very next day, the Defence Ministry recommended that the channel for which Mir works should be shut down for bringing a national institution into disrepute. Geo’s competitors have joined the chorus.

For years, Pakistan has been one of the world’s most dangerous countries for journalists. From feudal landlords to Taliban fighters, sectarian groups to separatists, all have killed journalists. The question one needs to ask is: does the ISI, a national body often referred to as “a sensitive institution”, occasionally kill journalists? As any trained journalist would tell you, we need two sources before we can tell you a story. Here are two stories, with multiple sources and two different endings.

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New York Times – Pakistan Builds Web Wall Out in the Open

By ERIC PFANNER

PARIS — Many countries censor the Internet, but few spell out their intentions as explicitly as Pakistan.

In an effort to tighten its control over the Internet, the government recently published a public tender for the “development, deployment and operation of a national-level URL filtering and blocking system.”

Technology companies, academic institutions and other interested parties have until March 16 to submit proposals for the $10 million project, but anger about it has been growing both inside and outside Pakistan.

Censorship of the Web is nothing new in Pakistan, which, like other countries in the region, says it wants to uphold public morality, protect national security or prevent blasphemy. The government has blocked access to pornographic sites, as well as, from time to time, mainstream services like Facebook and YouTube.

Until now, however, Pakistan has done so in a makeshift way, demanding that Internet service providers cut off access to specific sites upon request. With Internet use growing rapidly, the censors are struggling to keep up, so the government wants to build an automatic blocking and filtering system, like the so-called Great Firewall of China.

While China and other governments that sanitize the Internet generally do so with little public disclosure, Pakistan is being surprisingly forthcoming about its censorship needs. It published its request for proposals on the Web site of the Information and Communications Technology Ministry’s Research and Development Fund and even took out newspaper advertisements to publicize the project.

“The system would have a central database of undesirable URL’s that would be loaded on the distributed hardware boxes at each POP and updated on daily basis,” the request for proposals says, referring to uniform resource locators, the unique addresses for specific Web pages, and points of presence, or access points.

“The database would be regularly updated through subscription to an international reputed company maintaining and updating such databases,” according to the request, which was published last month.

The tender details a number of technical specifications, including the fact that the technology “should be able to handle a block list of up to 50 million URL’s (concurrent unidirectional filtering capacity) with processing delay of not more than 1 milliseconds.”

Following the Arab Spring, which demonstrated the power of the Internet to help spread political and social change, Pakistan’s move to clamp down has set off a storm of protest among free-speech groups in the country and beyond.

Opponents of censorship say they are doubly appalled because they associated this kind of heavy-handed approach more with the previous regime of Gen. Pervez Musharraf than with the current government of President Asif Ali Zardari.

“The authorities here are big fans of China and how it filters the Internet,” said Sana Saleem, chief executive of Bolo Bhi, a group that campaigns against restrictions on the Internet. “They overlook the fact that China is an autocratic regime and we are a democracy.”

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