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Posts tagged with: Censorship

MQM the Big Bad Wolf

Enough of our speculations on who could be at fault, for the sudden loss of transmission to over six channels in Karachi. ARY Digital, ARY One World, Geo TV, Geo News, Geo Super & AAJ YV. The mess started at around 5 pm and a few hours later Mustafa Azizabadi, MQM Information Secretary has been trying so hard to reinstate that MQM had no hand in this mess.

I have tried to reason all sides of the argument even going to the extent of trying to understand the motive behind the blanket block limited to Karachi only. I am on record to have even speculated that Geo was a ‘Drama Queen’ but it seems I might have to stand corrected on that statement and leave the Drama Queen title to be crowned some other day.

It seems MQM is pissed at the media outlets to have not given its press conference its due coverage and accuses the media to have ignored this historical event in Karachi. A number of statements have come from the London MQM headquarters and all have been denying any involvement in the censorship but surprisingly they go onto say

In a press release issued by MQM here Saturday, it is said that MQM’s Legal Aid rally is not covered properly while CJ Iftikhar’s rally, from Islamabad to Lahore, is being transmitted step-to-step, which it says is ‘journalistic dishonesty’. However, MQM believes in promoting the freedom of press. It also claimed that MQM’s rally was ten times larger than CJ Iftikhar’s rally on GT Road.

It also claimed that people themselves took the step to blackout the channels, as it was their reaction towards ‘such channels’ journalistic dishonesty’. Geo.tv

Please note the incriminating evidence which quite simply sums up the entire seven hour Karachi media black-out they use the term so casually, the enraged public seeing this ‘journalistic dishonesty’ closed down those channels.

Quite stunning at how simply they can deny any involvement in the confusion yet in the same statement drive home their grievance against the six media outlets to have ignored their ‘mammoth’ press conference and they in turn tried to teach these outlets a lesson for their bad behavior conspiring with the cable operators to shut down the offending channels. More so to bring them to their knees and beg for forgiveness. Honestly, Is this the Press Freedom they stand for? But wait, it has always been a strong Danda / Terror mentality with which they have maintained their full authoritarian control over their own voters

Geo the Drama Queen

Barely an hour ago I was up in arms trying to break the new about the nonavailability of Geo.Tv and Aaj.tv in a number of localities of Karachi. A number of reports have come through some claiming it to be blocked while others saying Aaj is on the air but Geo is blocked. Puzzling reports go onwards to state that the rest of the country the channels are fine without even so much as a hiccup.

This is indeed a puzzling incident and after some serious discussions with a number of friends (story credit Inspirex) I feel we have ourselves a drama queen trying to create some sort of chaos and put pressure on the Government of Pakistan. President Pervaiz Musharraf already has a plate full of problems in terms of the CJP fiasco, Justice Iftikhar and the lawyers supporting him have been rallying around the country to create additional pressure on the government to reinstate the Chief Justice of Pakistan, I fully support the cause, as I feel Musharraf has simply lost his sanity and is slowly going berserk like a crazed captain on a pirate ship. Its now been said, that if you are with him good otherwise Walk the Plank, Har Har.

The CJP issue seems to have Lahore and Islamabad up in a fix while Karachi seems to be simply asleep on this issue, we only read it on the front pages of news headlines and after that it appears to be a normal day at work. Karachi was never up in arms about the issue, more importantly because MQM had been carefully taken care off…. Altaf Hussain issued statements well after a week as if to wake up from a slumber party and say ‘whats this going on’ without the rallying power of MQM Karachi had a blissful sleep while the northern areas of Pakistan burned in the name of Justice.

Heading back to the topic at hand, GEO did have a tussle with the Government since the get-go which ultimately landed with a handful of warnings and even the suspension of a host during the CJP crisis. Mir Shakeel-ur-Rehamn is in no small terms a cunning fellow, he knows that he wields power of the media in his grasp and plays his own tune when he wants too. Since a few days the Jang Group it seems has not been in talking terms with the bureaucracy and I can assume that he must be itching to resume the fight.

What will Govt of Pakistan achieve to block Geo in Karachi ?

This is a good question that was also posed to me when I made the post on my blog about the blocking of Geo and Aaj in Karachi. Why would this censorship be limited to Karachi only and that too being limited to a number of select cable operators in the area (World Call Karachi). The first thing that people start to suspect is that it is a move by the Government of Pakistan to censor Geo in light of the Chief Justice of Pakistan crisis, I too reasoned likewise. This assumption will create a revolt in Karachi and people will start to rally against President Musharraf and give him additional pressure on the CJP fiasco, something which the government definitely does not want. Punjab is enough to worry about they don’t have to mess with the emotions of Sindh and stir a sleeping giant.

What will GEO achieve to have it blocked in Karachi ?

Well thats an interesting question, they simply achieve the attention of having been at the receiving end of a gag-order issued by the President of Pakistan, they achieve front page headline in tomorrows newspapers, the could also potentially wake Karachi from its slumber and be at the forefront of the assault on President Musharraf creating more pressure for him to succumb to any new demands Shakeel-ur-Rehamn might have up his sleeve, better yet they have a story which can go down in the history books as their struggle for free speech. Mind you people of Pakistan all know the cunning nature of Jang Group to be a force to reckon with.

An important point should also be noted is the fact that Geo.tv website has nothing about the incident, how strange, for a news organization to be taken off-air against its wishes will definitely start issuing strong statements in whatever way possible.

UPDATE: GEO.Tv website has just issued a statement “In some parts of country including Karachi, Hyderabad, Sukkar, Mirpur Khas and Nawabshah, Geo News telecast has been blocked. Some circles claimed that MQM bade the cable operators to shut down the telecast. The cable operators were allegedly asked to keep the telecast closed down until the chief justice rally came to an end.” – seems like a lame excuse,

MQM Angle?

Could it be an MQM ploy to teach GEO a lesson as there is little doubt that MQM have a full authoritarian control over the cable network operators in Karachi and Hyderabad, it has previously threatened ARY with dire consequences when they refused to cover press statements of Altaf Hussain and it did not take long for ARY to do a 180 and succumb to their requests and start covering news items concerning Bhai, we are most definitely shown his statements on a regualr basis for the past few years. Seriously this can only be the logical explanation to have Geo go down in MQM controlled localities of Karachi and Hyderabad.

I suspect there is some thing more then the eye can see, naturally this is all speculation and can be turned around to be nothing at all, but if we find that rat scurrying around somewhere then Geo should most definitely be renamed as the Drama Queen of 2007

GEO and AAJ Pulled off Air

Breaking News: it has come to my attention through reliable sources that the GEO.TV & AAJ.TV have both been pulled off the air in a bid to issue them a stern warning and also curtail their press freedom. I suspect this has all to do with the CJP crisis and the tussle the Govt had just following the CJP crisis and GEO.TVÅ› show host Kamran Khan amongst a number of other channels that dared to stick their neck out

So long for any hint of press freedom.

Updates to follow as soon as I hear of more news in this regards. KMB

Update: Geo has resumed its normal coverage and it looks like all channels are back on the air. It seems something was afoot in regards to the off-air status of a number of news channels, MQM has denied having an hand in this fiasco [but I tend to disagree] they may deny all they want but one must critically observe that the cable distributors here in Karachi were blocking the channels while the rest of the country had unhindered access. I suspect MQM was attempting to prove its loyalty to Musharraf by threatening GEO to stop the coverage or else they threatened with censorship, it seems the media played a tough hand and called the bluff to which MQM ended up blocking the channels, little did they know it would blow up in their face. Chalk one up for the strong media lobby in Pakistan

Voice of America covers Pakistani Bloggers

Voice of America did a one hour round table discussion calling in four different bloggers from across the world into a telephonic round table discussion

The guests were Adil Najam of Pakistaniat.com, Ramla Akhtar of Next> by Ramla blog, Hakim of micropakistan.org and wrapping up the talk with myself as the fourth speaker. The host was Murtaza Solangi, the hour long discussion was quite interesting with a wide range of topics being discussion from the blogging situation in Pakistan to censorship and also the impact of blogging in the CJP crisis

Hear the entire round table from Voice of America Urdu website or locally here

or download the MP3 here (10MB)

Govt Bans Kamran Khan’s GEO.tv Show

Kamran Khan CensoredToday at 11:05pm the regularly scheduled show titled “Aaj Kamran Khan Key Sath which is hosted by the outspoken Kamran Khan was stopped from airing, people witnessing the live feed noticed a sudden block lasting for ten minutes after which the show was replaced by some other programming for the allotted time.

There is no doubt that this blatant censorship is quite contrary to the open attitude as being portrayed by the Emperor Pervaiz Musharraf. Geo.tv reports
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PTCL Fumbles the Censorship to Block Millions of Websites

Over the past few days PTCL has been up to mischief yet again but this time rather then irritating the 0.001% of the population (the blogger class) they stepped on some giant kick-ass toes. They ended up blocking giants like Google.com, Download.com, Microsoft.com, Gmail.com, Yahoo.com, BBC, CNN, Systematic, Akamai, PC World, MTV, Best Buy, Logitech & ESPN. resulting in an estimated 20-30% loss of revenue in the brief span of five days,

All because the whole system had collapsed and owing to the blocking flaws (created for the Blogspot ban and the Baluchistan issues) resulted in sporadic and random outage of the key websites. The News reports as follows.
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Don’t Block the Blogs 1st Year Anniversary

Press Release – Don’t Block the Blog Continues to Fight Pakistan’s Internet Blockade at the 1st Year Anniversary

It has been exactly one year since the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority initiated a blanket block on the entire blogspot.com domain. So far there seems no recourse to the ban despite the repeated attempts of a strong lobby of individuals pressuring the concerned authorities to review this unfair ban. The Don’t Block the Blog (DBTB) team, (with the support of other Pakistani and international bloggers,) highlighted this issue successfully in both the national and the international press. Since the blockade, a couple of savvy Pakistani programmers have created sites that help by-pass the ban for internet users in Pakistan. The DBTB team specifically launched the Bloggers.Pakistan web site (www.bloggers.pk), the first Pakistani Blog Aggregator, to help encourage blogging and to ensure that those unfairly banned Pakistani blogs that were not fully censored by the Supreme Court of Pakistan, giving them a chance to be read by the global internet audience in Pakistan as well as internationally.
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Online freedom of Speech – Global Voices

Sami Ben Gharbia the recently appointed Advocacy Director of Global Voices has done a very extensive review of the censorship situation in Pakistan which also includes a very interesting interview with Omer Alvie discussing the issue in quite extensive detail. Link: Pakistan: Online freedom of speech as collateral damage?

Do also have a look at the presentation I gave on the topic ‘Silencing the Pakistani Blogs‘ practically one year back in Manila on the occasion of the three day meeting of Free Expression in Asian Cyberspace, Sami was kind enough to create a flash video out of my entire PowerPoint presentation (slides, audio).

Don’t Block the Blog & Google

Don’t Block the Blog (DBTB) is happy to announce to the Pakistani bloggers that some serious progress has been made during the last few of days regarding the internet censorship (blogspot ban ) issue in Pakistan.

Google Inc.’s key representative (Policy Analyst) has been in direct contact with DBTB members in reference to the blogspot ban. We were informed that Google has been closely following the activities of DBTB and our efforts to address the issue of the blanket ban, and Google strongly supports the cause of the Pakistani bloggers.

During the exchange of emails, Omer Alvie provided a detailed picture on the history of the ban, along with highlighting the collective efforts of DBTB and Pakistani bloggers to fight this unfair blanket ban. Additionally, the serious problems regarding the new version of Blogger.com were also highlighted, along with requesting a more direct and concrete support from Google Inc. in helping resolve the current blogspot censorship issue and providing continued support for the cause of free speech in Pakistan.

In reference to our request and direct communication with Google, DBTB was contacted by the appointed representative of Google in Pakistan. Dr. Awab Alvi had a detailed meeting with the representative reiterating the need to address the Pakistani bloggers’ concerns regarding the blanket ban with the appropriate government authorities. DBTB was informed Google is hard at trying to work something out with the government and the Google (Pak) representative will try to convince the government to reevaluate the unfair blanket ban issue once and for all.

In addition, Dr. Awab also reminded the Google Representative, that in the meantime, it would best to get direct involvement from Google in configuring the pkblogs and inblogs proxy servers to be better at handling the recent upgrade to new version of Blogger.

Although the DBTB team remains optimistic with the recent developments and the direct involvement of Google to help resolve the blanket ban issue, we are also aware of the political machinations within our government which could mean that the process for a permanent resolution to the ban problem will be a slow one.

We at DBTB stand determined to continue our efforts in this regard, and hope to update you as soon as we are informed of any concrete solutions or resolutions to the blog censorship issue.

Pakistan Blogging Situation – Update

For the past few days especially yesterday I have exchanged a number of emails around the globe to figure out a solution for the deteriorating blogging condition in Pakistan which started a few days back as reported by Don’t Block the Blog, Press Release of 3rd February and also my blog, I have a few things to share so I thought I would d formulate this into a small report.


I was probing if PsiPhon could be used from Pakistan to handle the Pakistani Censorship (PsiPhon is a better replacement for TOR which I talked about a few months back here) but unfortunately PsiPhon does not support SSL at the moment but today Nart Villeneuve (of Citizen Lab who has been actively involved with the creation of PsiPhon) responded that the next update will definitely handle SSL which is due to be out in the coming few days and more close to a month.

I quote a few sections of his email correspondence with everyone
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Pakistan Blog Alert ! Do Not Upgrade to Blogger Beta

The Don’t Block the Blog campaign would like to issue a Blog Alert to all Pakistani bloggers on blogspot.com to resist the temptation to upgrade to Blogger Beta, the improved version of the Google Blogging platform.

It apparently seems that once the blogger upgrades to Blogger Beta, all hell breaks loose as the proxy servers are having a tough time processing the new upgrade. Additionally it also seems that the back-end portion of the site which used to reside on an unblocked IP address now moves the Dashboard onto the same IP as that of blogspot.com hence the restrictions imposed on the blogspot domain now effectively block access to the back-end of the blogging platform.

Pakistani bloggers are being forced to take drastic measures to move away from blogspot domain, now more out of frustration of being unable to live behind a gag order in silence which was enforced by the Supreme Court of Pakistan to ban access to a select few websites depicting the Prophet Mohammed blocking the cartoons only impacted the Pakistani freedom as the offending websites catapulted to fame and fortune, shortly said If Pakistanis were not viewing them heck the rest of the world was and they owners made tons from the new found traffic coming down their way to see whats going on.

The Don’t Block the Blog (DBTB) team, continues to highlight the issues which have plagued the Pakistani blogosphere since March of 2006 in the national and the international press. Since the blockade, a couple of savvy Pakistani programmers have created sites that help by-pass the unfair blanket ban for Internet users in Pakistan. The DBTB team specifically, launched the Bloggers.Pakistan web site (www.bloggers.pk), the first Pakistani Blog Aggregator, to help encourage blogging and to ensure that those unfairly banned Pakistani blogs that were not officially censored by the Supreme Court of Pakistan, have a chance to be read by the global Internet audience. We strongly oppose any form of Internet censorship and request the national and international bloggers, media and free speech organizations to help support our cause and to continue to highlight this issue of the unfair blanket ban of blogs for the Internet users in Pakistan.

The Don’t Block the Blog team has issued a Press Release for everyone to distribute widely and hope that someone within the bureaucratic circles of Islamabad can wake up and remove all forms of Internet censorship in Pakistan.

They must realize that this form of censorship is actually just crippling our own people in their continued progress towards the future.

Asia 21: Day 1

Asia 21

The first day of the Asia 21 convention was truly brilliant with over 250 delegates attending the conference from practically 50 countries ranging from anywhere from Australia to Vietnam; it was undoubtedly a mind blowing experience. This meeting probably creates a social network of entrepreneurs, businessmen and even philanthropists who come together to exchange ideas but more importantly create friends. A casual hello today can mean a ground breaking partnership somewhere in the future.

Today’s event we discussed a number of broad based issues which will confront the future leader of the Asia Pacific region. Kicking off the session was a 2 hour discussion on the values of a leader and later the entire congress was sp[lit into four break-away session to discuss Vibrant Societies, Healthy Societies, Inclusive Societies & Safe Societies. These break-out sessions allowed participants in each group to really touch the core issues and then later all thoughts were presented to the larger forum opening it for some intense discussions which turned into a session to share some people sharing their unique life changing experiences
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ACT NOW! 24 Hours Against Internet Censorship

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Reporters Without Borders have started its online protest. The Internet is increasingly falling prey to censorship round the world. The 13 “Enemies of the Internet” are blocking access to news which displeases them and imprisoning bloggers who express themselves too freely. Join the campaign now to defend the right of all of us to freedom of expression.

There are three ways to participate in this 24 hour campaign

  • Vote against the Enemies of Internet by clicking on the Internet Black Holes
  • Record your message for Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang to protest Yahoo!’s collaboration with the Chinese Govt
  • Join the RSF Blog to fight for freedom of expression on the Internet

Proceed to the 24-hour Online Protest by RSF and Condemn Internet Censorship Forever

RSF plans for an Online Protest Against Internet Censorship

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Reporters without Borders is organizing a 24-hour Online Protest between 11 a.m. on 7 November and 11 a.m. on 8 November. This protest is to raise our voice against the 13 Governments that are being labelled as ‘Internet Enemies’. We as Pakistanis and activists of the Don’t Block the Blog where we condemn the Censorship of the Internet in Pakistan, would like to join this Online Protest alongside RSF to condemn all countries which are actively blocking the use of the Internet in their own countries read more….
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