Last Tuesday the owner of Geo, Pakistan’s largest television station, sent an email to his senior editors. “I have received [a] threatening telephone call last night from ISI,” wrote Mir Shakil ur Rahman, referring to the powerful Inter Services Intelligence agency. “They have taken me to a house in Islamabad.”
Mr Rahman did not describe what happened at the spy safe house, but the following sentence suggested it was not pleasant. “I would like to advise you to please follow the laws specially [sic] the newly promulgated law.”
He also attached an email from “Sabir”. “Pakistan Army is the backbone of Pakistan, don’t try to damage it, if u do, u and your family who have looted billions would be hunted down like rats,” it read. “It will just take a few hundred people to smash ur studios, offices, vans.”
As General Musharraf’s emergency rule slides towards a second week, Pakistan’s media barons are coming under intense pressure from his heavy-handed security forces – officially and unofficially.
Private TV channels have been pulled off air, stringent new laws prohibit stories that “ridicule” the president, and many journalists are wondering if the country’s television revolution is over.
… Journalists and proprietors complain of threatening calls and emails, some by people claiming to be the Taliban. They are continuing to broadcast, sending stories by satellite and high-speed internet to a minority of wealthy viewers.
… “The government’s goal is to consolidate their position in the courts and not to allow protests grow,” said veteran journalist Zaffar Abbas. “At the moment they seem pretty satisfied.”
Film, cartoon and sports channels are allowed, as is Pakistan Television, the state news station, which presents an alternate reality. The channel airs Musharraf speeches, anti-Indian propaganda and chat shows hosted by regime loyalists.