WHEN SILENT WORDS SPEAK


ALI SUKHANVER

Luckily or unluckily, Pakistan’s is one of those few countries where you can say and write whatever you like and you remain safe until unless the person you talk about takes your words serious. Some people may say that things were quite different almost ten to fifteen years back when the electronic media was not as powerful and advanced as it is now. There was only one TV channel, the PTV, which was fully under the control and command of the government and it was supported by the Radio Pakistan; also a government institution. It was the reign of President Musharaf when a media revolution brought a lot of changes in the whole of social structure of Pakistan. Gradually this liberty of expression got another ‘wing’ to fly on, that was the social media. In the beginning, the things started in a haphazard way, people misused the newly acquired freedom or liberty of expression, knowingly or unknowingly but later on, the government of Pakistan introduced and implemented different rules and regulations to channelize this liberty of expression. Now situation is very much in control. Pakistan is now ranked very high in the list of countries where everyone is allowed to say everything using any medium of his own choice. Experts say that freedom of expression is no doubt a very positive trait but it becomes very dangerous rather disastrous if unchecked and without restrictions. To avoid any unpleasant situation with reference to the freedom of expression, though the government of Pakistan has introduced new rules and regulations but still there are some factions of society which are simply distorting the simple face of the things, knowingly or unknowingly by misusing freedom of expression. Unfortunately most of such factions are supported, guided, pushed-up and even financed by some hostile foreign elements like the RAW, NDS and to some extent the CIA. Defaming the Armed Forces and the Intelligence Agencies of Pakistan is one of the most favourite topics for the people belonging to these factions.

Liberty of expression has ever been the most desired demand of the educated ones in every society but at the same time keeping the freedom of expression under some control has also been a very serious problem. Situation in this particular context is graver in the countries with low literacy rate. In Bangladesh the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has recently taken a serious action regarding freedom of expression. She introduced an act with the name of Digital Security Act 2018 for putting a check on the misuse of freedom of expression. According to this Act a journalist could be convicted of espionage for entering a government office and gathering information secretly using an electronic device. The offender would carry a 14-year jail sentence. This act forbids spreading of negative propaganda about the country’s war of independence or about its founding leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman using a digital device. In case of violation, a life sentence is suggested. According to different Bangladeshi newspapers, when the cabinet approved this act, hundreds of Bangladeshi journalists took to the streets and protested against this digital security bill.  The campaigners said this law would damage media freedom in the country. Different media rights groups including the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) have condemned the bill because according to them the act provides more grounds to grossly misuse the provisions to harass journalists and restrict freedom of expression. Protest against the DSA 2018 is getting severe and severe day by day in Bangladesh and Sheikh Hasina’s government is under a very serious public pressure. Unfortunately most of her advisers belong to India; they have a very typical prejudiced type of angle of looking at the things. Moreover they have their own vested interests; it seems so they don’t want her move in the right direction. But in Pakistan the situation regarding liberty of expression is somewhat different. Most of the people here are very much sincere to the motherland; the political process is gradually getting stronger; democracy is getting strength and above all the system of accountability is running faster. Our everyday is a better day but the problem lies with those few ones who are misguided by the notion that the Armed forces are a ‘wind’ that always blows counter to democracy. They think that by demoralizing the security forces, they are strengthening democracy. To materialize their stupid philosophy they use freedom of expression as a tool. The fact of the matter is that freedom of expression does not mean a license to ‘ooze out’ every filthy idea that comes to a mind particularly in countries like Pakistan where the Armed forces and law enforcement agencies in collaboration with the judiciary have to play a very vibrant role in  keeping the country safe and secure. We don’t need any Bangladesh type Digital Security Act but we do need a specific demarcation of limits with reference to the Freedom of Expression. If this freedom damages the repute of national institutions like the Army, the Judiciary and the Parliament, and harms religious harmony, we will have to put a check on it. Freedom leading to destruction of the whole social structure could never be a blessing.

Leave a Reply