Media in Pakistan: An Overview
Pakistan has a vibrant media landscape; among the most dynamic in South Asia. To a large extent the media enjoys freedom of expression in spite ofpolitical pre ssure and direct bans sometimes administered by political stake-holders. More than 40 television channels beam soaps, satire, music programmes, films, religious speech, political talk shows, and news of the hour. Although sometimes criticised for being unprofessional and politically biased, the television channels have made a great contribution to the media landscape and to Pakistani society. Radio channels are numerous and considered a very important source of information – especially in rural areas. Besides the state channel Radio Pakistan, a number of private radios carry independent journalistic content and news. But most radio content is music and entertainment. There are hundreds of Pakistani newspapers from the large national Urdu newspapers to the small local vernacular papers. Media demographics reflect a multi-linguistic, multi-ethnic and stratified class society with a clear divide between Urdu and English media. Urdu media are mostly consumed by the rural population. The English media targets urban and the elite and is more liberal and professional in comparison. English print, television and radio channels have far smaller audiences than their Urdu counterparts, but have great leverage among opinion makers, politicians, the business community, and the upper strata of society. Besides the Urdu/English and Rural/Urban divide, Pakistan media is also di vided linguistically with a series of media in vernacular languages, such as Punjabi, Pashto and Sindhi. Pakistan‟s media sector is highly influenced by the ownership structure. There are three dominating media moguls, or large media groups, which to some extent also have political affiliations. Due to their dominance in both print and broadcast industries all three media groups are very influential in politics and society. The security situation for journalists in general has deteriorated in the past couple of years. Twelve journalists were killed in 2008; and May 2009 six more has been killed. Threats and intimidation against journalists and media workers by state and non-state actors is widespread. Political pressure on media is mostly done indirectly. One tool widely used by the government is to cut off „unfriendly‟ media from governmental advertising. Using draconian laws the government has also banned or officially silencing popular television channels. The Page 1 of 9
Muhammad Abdullah EP 102022 BS 3rd Year Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) has been used to silence the broadcast media by either suspending licenses or by simply threatening to do so. In addition, media is also exposed to propaganda from state agencies, pressured by powerful political elements and non-state actors involved in the current conflict. As news coverage on the most popular private television channels is mostly focused on conflict and political stories, reports covering social issue, minorities, marginalized groups, human rights and women rights do not get due exposure in the media. In defence of the media, one could argue that developments within political theatre and the prevailing conflict have been so intense that they have demanded all the attention of journalists and media in general.
The media in Pakistan dates back to pre-partition years of British India, where a number of newspapers were established to promote a communalistic or partition agenda. The newspaper Dawn, founded by Quaid-e-Azam and first published in 1941, was dedicated to countering “anti-Muslim propaganda” and promoting for an independent Pakistan. The conservative newspaper, Nawa-e-Waqt, established in 1940, was the mouthpiece of the Muslim elites who were among the strongest supporters for an independent Pakistan. In a sense,...