AN unannounced censorship seems to have been imposed on the media. The restrictions have certainly not been imposed by the federal government or any regulatory body. Still, the media houses are compelled to follow a diktat. Opinion pieces violating ‘guidelines’ have reportedly been withdrawn by the management of some leading newspapers for fear of being penalised. Indeed, TV channels are much more vulnerable to the threat. And that fear is not unfounded.
Over the past weeks, a TV channel has reportedly been taken off by cable operators or shuffled out of the main bouquet of news channels as ‘punishment’ for being too ‘outspoken on certain sensitive issues’. Such a clampdown, in violation of the directives of Pemra, the electronic media regulator, is more effective in the cantonment areas where certain ‘blacklisted’ newspapers are not allowed to be distributed. No one can dare challenge these unlawful and arbitrary actions.
What we are witnessing is described by some analysts as the creeping expansion of the power of the ‘deep state’. It is not just about media gagging or the increasing number of cases related to enforced disappearances, it is also about the growing perception of political manipulation by ‘invisible forces’, often referred to as namaloom afraad. The recent political re-engineering in Balochistan and allegations that the Senate chairman elections were ‘managed’ have reinforced the apprehension.