Managed democracy

This is a great piece by Reuters on the Pakistani military’s kneecapping of a free media:

“After Geo TV, Pakistan’s most popular station, was taken off the air across much of the country at the end of March, military representatives pressed the channel to cease favorable coverage of ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and stop any criticism of the Supreme Court and the “establishment”, according to the two people, who had knowledge of the negotiations.

The “establishment” is a commonly used euphemism for the military in Pakistan.

Written instructions by Geo management to staff last week that were reviewed by Reuters spelled out “key editorial points that we have to manage and implement” to be restored to the airwaves.

Besides banning negative portrayals of the “establishment” and any allegations the Supreme Court might be interfering in politics, the instructions said there should be no reports on Nawaz Sharif’s ongoing corruption trial “that helps build a narrative that he and his children are innocent”. . . .

Three major cable operators, who spoke on condition of anonymity, earlier told Reuters they had pulled the channel from their rosters after direct instructions from unidentified military officers, even though the army has no official authority over the media. . . .

Five of the Geo insiders said they knew the widespread cable blackout was a result of military pressure. However, only two were willing to talk about the conditions laid out by military officials to Geo for restoring the channels, and they said they were doing so against direct orders from the company’s owner.

One executive at a leading cable company that covers more than a million households in Pakistan told Reuters he received a telephone call at the end of March from a senior officer in the ISI telling him to take Geo TV off their roster. . . ..

There was never any question of refusing the order, he said.

A second cable executive said his company shut down Geo broadcasts after receiving a telephone call. Asked who made the call, he said: “I can’t say the name, you know, big brother, the boots.””

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