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Pakistan Media Suppression; Britain in Cartoons

Aired November 9, 2007 - 20:30:00   ET


FIONNUALA SWEENEY, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Fionnuala Sweeney in London. Welcome to CNN's INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENTS, where we examine how the media are covering the big stories.
This week, a clamp down on the media. Pakistan's president pulls the plug on coverage of the country's state of emergency. Also coming up, drawing on a union. Cartoonists sum up Britain's relationship with Europe over the past 50 years.

First to Pakistan, a country plunged into a state of emergency after the constitution was suspended by President Pervez Musharaff. A measure he says was made necessary by the growing threat of terrorism and what he described as out of control judicial activism.

The decree sparked major protests, as demonstrators demanded parliamentary elections be called. In the past week, thousands of lawyers, opposition figures, journalists, and human rights workers have been rounded up during the protests.

A correspondent from Dawn TV was caught up in the clashes.


NAUREEN HAIDER, CORRESPONDENT: .dragging them and pulling them by their shirt collars. And (INAUDIBLE) it is. The police are (INAUDIBLE). And they are actually - much (INAUDIBLE). They are mercilessly (INAUDIBLE). Then (INAUDIBLE) mercilessly beaten by the police and are almost (INAUDIBLE) right in front of my eyes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my gosh. Situation very (INAUDIBLE) in Lahore. What's happening right now, Naureen? HAIDER: (INAUDIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE) trying to keep talking to us from (INAUDIBLE). She's probably also in the line of attack of the tear gas shelling that is continuing, also the baton charging.


SWEENEY: Coverage from Dawn TV there. Broadcasters have since been threatened with jail if they breach emergency rules on coverage of protests. Given that, let's get a sense on how the media in Pakistan is now reporting on events happening there.

And for that, we turn to CNN correspondent Dan Rivers, who's in Lahore. He joins us via broadband.

Dan, what are you able to see on television when you try to cover events?

DAN RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's been a curious situation here in Pakistan since imposition of emergency rule. A lot of the - all of the local news channels have been taken off air. There's a very strong journalistic community in TV here, both broadcasting in English and in other languages, including Urdu.

All of those have been taken off air for this period, including as well CNN and the BBC. They have started to relax some of those rules with (INAUDIBLE) come back on, but it's left most people completely without (INAUDIBLE) what's going on, having to rely on calling him outside the country from relatives in Europe and in America, to find out what's happening in their country, because they have more idea of what's going on because you see channels like CNN.

SWEENEY: And may I ask, Dan, did you have any difficulty entering the country at all? And what is it like trying to do your job on a day to day basis? Have things changed in Pakistan from when you were there before, when there wasn't a state of emergency?

RIVERS: It's always fiendishly difficulty here to get into the country as a journalist. (INAUDIBLE) specific journal of (INAUDIBLE) have actually been quite difficult to get. And then there's a lot of bureaucracy. This is a very bureaucratic (INAUDIBLE) anyway. And imagine what it's like trying to apply for journalist visas, endless forms and so on to fill out.

Since we've arrived here, I hadn't really noticed any difference on the street. Normal (INAUDIBLE) continuing very well. There's no curfew or anything here. But as you can probably hear, traffic in the background as people are out and about. Most shops and so on seem to be open.

But what's curious is that there's this sort of a black hole of coverage here. No one really knows what's going on because no has access to the news. The newspapers are being printed, but a lot of TV stations which is where most people get their news as well as the Internet, are off there. A lot of the websites try and access them sometimes are interrupted or the Internet service is down. And it's incredibly frustrating for people here to try and find out what's going on.

Interestingly as well, the cricket between Pakistan and India is also off, which is a sure fire way of antagonizing an awful lot of people from Pakistan.

SWEENEY: You mentioned the Internet there, Dan. In Myanmar recently, we saw the government crack down on the Internet because that was, of course, how the rest of the world was getting its news coverage about what was taking place there. The Internet, you say, has been restricted to a certain degree, you believe?

RIVERS: It's really difficult to gauge because you never really know whether it's simply local server that you're working has either gone down, or whether there's a problem in - you know, for example, a hotel where we are, or whether it's more (INAUDIBLE).

But the theme which seems to be getting (INAUDIBLE) other people is there also problems (INAUDIBLE) the Internet. And whether that is just an overload of the system, with everyone trying to log on to find out what's going on, and it's simply overloading the system more, whether that's something sinister of the government pulling the plug on certain sites, it's very difficult to know.

Don't think it seems as bad here as well as (INAUDIBLE), where everything needs power. (INAUDIBLE) ground to a halt and completely ended. The only Internet in (INAUDIBLE) various different foreign (INAUDIBLE), which had secure satellite links.

Here, I don't get the impression that's the case. But it's certainly frustrating, certainly a lot of the news websites, you log on and you simply can't get them to upload.

SWEENEY: All right, we leave it there. But Dan Rivers, thank you very much indeed for joining us from Lahore via broadband.

And up next on INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENTS, getting the news how they can. With both private TV networks in Pakistan unable to cover events caused by the country's state of emergency, there's been a surge in demand for satellite services. More on that, when we return.


SWEENEY: Welcome back. Feeding the appetite for news, it's been made much more difficult for broadcasters in Pakistan. The state of emergency has resulted in the loss of most local and international news channels on cable. That means coverage of rallies and the wider situation in Pakistan can only be found on satellite.

Dish providers are reporting a marked rise in demand for equipment. Viewers say they've no alternative.

JAMAL KAKAR, CUSTOMER (through translator): We have no choice but to buy a dish to know about the situation in the country, because the government shut down all the news channels. Before, the media was free and we could watch lots of live news. But now all news channels have closed. And we can only watch entertainment channels. That's why there's nothing for it, but to buy dishes.

SWEENEY: Different rules apply to broadcasters, compared to the print media and their emergency measures. To discuss more on the situation in Pakistan and the media's coverage, I'm joined by Aamire Ghauri, the head of news and current affairs for Europe with GEO TV.

Also with us is M Ziauddin, special correspondent in London with the Dawn newspaper.

GEO TV has been largely very badly affected by this. What kind of toll is it taking, first of all, financially on your network?

AAMIRE GHAURI, HEAD OF NEWS (EUROPE), GEO TV: Financially, if I can give you just figures of one of our channels, which is called GEO Sport. It is, you know, showing cricket, hockey, boxing. We are losing something like $13.3 million dollars because this time, we were the, you know, sole right holders of the cricket series between India and Pakistan. And now, we actually have a huge problem. We cannot, you know, bill the advertisers, because we're not showing that match. We actually kind of bought it from Pakistan state television. So that is just one.

Similarly, millions of millions of dollars, you know, combined because GEO is running four to five channels in Pakistan.

SWEENEY: M Ziauddin, newspapers operate under different restrictions under the emergency legislations. How is it different? And how does is it distinctive from broadcasters?

M ZIAUDDIN, SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT, DAWN NEWSPAPER: Well, the law which they have are the issue is very, very tough. If you should defy that law, you will be fined about a million dollars and will be - would be under bars for three months. And your newspaper will be closed down for a month.

But by and large, the newspapers are defying it.

SWEENEY: And they're printing the news?

ZIAUDDIN: Printing the news. They're not taking any inspections from the government. Most of the major newspapers. I'm not very sure about the smaller newspapers, how they are doing it. But the major newspapers like GEO's (INAUDIBLE) publication News in (INAUDIBLE), they're doing it very well. My newspaper is also doing it. And they're publishing it. They're taking every kind of news highly critical of the government, highly critical of the way they're handling it.

But then, because of the rate of literacy in the country is very low. And most of the people were dependent on electronic channels.


ZIAUDDIN: So they have been deprived, most of the people have been deprived. Now they're now depending on the radios, foreign radios, the BBC, the Voice of America. So that is the situation.

Our newspaper, our - we also have a channel - Dawn TV on (INAUDIBLE). And you saw the suffering. Men suffering very badly.

SWEENEY: And do you think the lack of literacy in Pakistan can explain perhaps why President Musharaff has been seemingly tolerant of the newspapers going ahead, continuing to print the news of the day?

ZIAUDDIN: Yes, most of the dictators in the country in Pakistan have tolerated English print journalism, because they knew that most of the people don't read English newspapers. And that gives them a kind of window to show to the world, look, we're so liberal on the media.

And even the newspapers, local language newspapers, are also - because their circulation is very, very limited.


ZIAUDDIN: All the (INAUDIBLE) newspapers, all the publications put together in the country (INAUDIBLE). Maybe they're not more than five million.

SWEENEY: It's somewhat ironic because satellite TV stations were actually President Musharaff's great friend in the beginning. And he encouraged slow growth. There's been a spectacular growth in the rise of TV stations, satellite TV stations and private owned stations in the last few years.

GHAURI: I don't know whether they were President Musharaff's friends or not, but President Musharaff definitely wrote that - took huge credit for opening up Pakistan's, you know, news media, electronic media. This was one of his, you know, mainstay whenever he was talking to the foreign media, that you know, look, I have given freedom of expression in this country unprecedented, which was not there, you know, under so-called democracies.

But the thing is this is the man who has taken it back. You know, and the ruthless power. This is the - one of the two things which Musharaff, you know, constantly used to say that I am allowed these channels to operate. I have allowed, you know, personal criticism because we know that in the last couple of years, many of the channels have come up, you know, with kind of caricatures, you know, even sarcastic comments about him, about his relationship with America. And he was taking it, you know, in good stride.

But I think it was getting too bad for him, having these programs, where his ministers were coming. Now in my name, you know, I - most of his mainstream ministers who started off with him, they've already abandoned him. You cannot get those ministers on television programs. There's a handful of ministers, you know, who are willing to come on television programs. Maybe they were not, you know, able to justify, you know, their being on channels. And that's why he lost, you know, touch. He lost patience with these (INAUDIBLE).

And now, you know, in the last action, the emergency, which is clamped, he knew that if the kind of scenes which Dew (ph) Television, CNN, BBC has showed to the world, you know, we are definitely off air in Pakistan, but we're showing it in Europe and America. If those scenes were seen in Pakistan, he would have actually this kind of trouble on the street. And that's why this clamp down.

SWEENEY: What is the long term effect, do you think, of this state of emergency and the closure of this TV station going to have on journalism in Pakistan as a whole?

ZIAUDDIN: CBS, CNN - I mean, I'm (INAUDIBLE) last 40 years in the country. The first, you know, a very harsh law was enforced in 1963. That was called present publication ordinance, which meant in just - that if small little man sitting in a remotest corner of the country that did not like the color of your skirt, he can put you behind the bars. He can confiscate your purse and forget about it because there was no recourse at all.

SWEENEY: Mm-hmm.

ZIAUDDIN: And then when Jerziat (ph) came in, he said - he had a law, a very interesting law that what you've printed, if it's true, and he knew it was in the national interest (INAUDIBLE) sent behind the bars.

So that was the kind of situation we've been facing. And we've been struggling. Hundreds and hundreds of journalists have gone behind the bars. There have been arrest checked. There have been tear gas. There have been (INAUDIBLE). And they've been kept on fighting.

See, the Pakistani media is a different kind of a media from most of the developing countries. We are combative. And we inherited the combativeness from the colonialists. You know, when the colonial - when the struggle was on against the colonial - against the British, we also joined. The media in India at some point joined in that, you know, confrontation. And we inherited that combativeness.

So they were critical of every - each and every comment from the very beginning. And - because the new government was inefficient. They're not really - they could not manage the things. So they came out with the harshest loss.


ZIAUDDIN: And -- yes?

SWEENEY: .but the point I'm asking, I suppose, is will it recover this time? I mean, do you think journalism will still recover after this station's emergency is over?

ZIAUDDIN: We will get it back.

GHAURI: I think because, you know, we now, you know, work for public interest. And there's a huge appetite from, you know, our audiences. They want to hear those programs. They want to watch those programs.

So that sort of pressure will, you know, definitely give us boost whenever, you know, we are given a chance to operate again. We're setting standards.

ZIAUDDIN: And then to give you an example, see, you know, (INAUDIBLE) his claim - Musharaff's claim that he's given the freedom, when Benazir was dismissed for the first time. You know, (INAUDIBLE) gave evidence from our own newspaper stories to the supreme court. And they accepted that evidence.

So if we were not free in those days, then how could we have published those stories? And again, the (INAUDIBLE), you know, dismissed for the first time. The same stories have been - our stories were used. So an attitude is claimed that he has given us the freedom. We have actually (INAUDIBLE) in degrees.

SWEENEY: Do you think that President Musharaff is an enemy of freedom of the press? Or is this a by-product of the state of emergency?

GHAURI: I think he's a dictator. He's a dictator. You know, he tried to play different rules, different games. You know, when he walked in '99, you know, he did not say that he's a marshal law administrator. He said that he's a chief executive.

Now it was said in Pakistani press by same media that Pakistan is not a public limited company that you need a chief executive at all. So these sort of names were not, you know, whether they were necessary or not.

But because Pakistan and partially media was also not happy with the outgoing democratic, you know, (INAUDIBLE), he came the way Ziaddin is saying. He came really, really strong, gave less of - you know, journalists. He actually wanted out of these organizations.

So we have seen this. And whatever Musharaff is saying, I think he'll be coming out very weak, you know, whether it's weeks or days.

SWEENEY: And with this stewing, of course, that TV stations like your own survive financially?

ZIADDIN: No, what had happened was when he came in, the information technology revolution was taking hold.


ZIADDIN: .coming in.


ZIADDIN: And telecom revolution was also coming in. The Internet was coming in. And the satellite was also there. So he understood that if he used the same old actors, he would not succeed.

And then what had happened was in the meanwhile, the establishment was just putting pressures, which using all kinds of, you know, instruments. Again, the media. They were also getting tired of this long fight for people for years.

So he thought - and then in the meanwhile in the world, there were this debate going on, what crossed media, whether a newspaper should be given permission to have a television station. And most of the implications which Benazir's government and Musharaff's government were - had received word from newspapers, from my newspaper, from his newspaper. So they were not very clear whether to give their permission.

And then he came in by that time that the debate had been over.

SWEENEY: Was over it, yes.

ZIADDIN: So he came - it was not something that he came out with this strategy of liberalizing the media.

GHAURI: And a quick element. You know, Musharaff is needed by the West. Similarly, Pakistani media has created, you know, these huge international linkages, whether it's your channel or other, you know, channels. Pakistan, if it's an important country, if it's a nuclear state, if it's an Islamic country, which is threatened by, you know, mullahs or fundamentalists, there is a world stake in it.

We have seen President Musharaff buckle, you know, when he received calls from Washington, D.C. and also London. And one of the key demands from these capitols were to free media.

So Musharaff cannot survive. You know, whether he takes off his uniform or not, it's immaterial for us. You know, he has been, you know, quite good. He has not done everything wrong. You know, I would say that, you know, he has done a few things right as well. And even we remembered, whenever somebody writes the history, that this was not a guy who was 100 percent black. You know, he has done few things right.

But then, like a dictator, he just actually went off course. He wanted to continue because he has done enormous actions which - you know, (INAUDIBLE) constitution, which (INAUDIBLE). And he does not actually want to be, you know, held responsible for that.

SWEENEY: We'll have to leave it there. Gentlemen, thank you both very much indeed.

Still to come on INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENTS, putting pen to paper. Britain's union with Europe through the eyes of cartoonists. It's the focus of the new exhibition in London. We take a tour when we return.


SWEENEY: Welcome back. Britain's relationship with the European Union has been checkered, to say the least. Now as they prepare to celebrate 50 years together, the rocky courtship and subsequent marriage is being highlighted in an exhibition of works by British cartoonists.

Our European political editor Robin Oakley took a tour.


ROBIN OAKLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A good picture, they say, is worth 1,000 words. In politics, a good cartoon is worth considerably more. Could anything more eloquently describe the British ambivalence about the European Union than this depiction by Mac of "The Daily Mail" of a roped Britannia, nails scraping the white cliffs of Dover, being hauled reluctantly across the English Channel?

Celebrating 50 years of the European Union, a new exhibition at London's Cartoon Museum charts the history of Britain's relationship with its continental partners. The tale of a stormy courtship and a rocky marriage.

France scuppered Britain's first attempt to join. Here in May 1967, male cartoonist M. Wood shows French Prime Minister Georges Pompidou, proffering Britain's second membership application to his President Charles de Gaulle.

De Gaulle declares from his beach lounger, very well, Pompidou, put it with the other begging letters. Ouch.

If the cartoonists for British newspapers have a heroine, it was clearly Margaret Thatcher. Here, she's depicted by "The Guardian's" Lez Gibbard (ph) in 1984, after hand bagging her continental opponents to win back part of Britain's European club subscription. The tattered rebate slip indicating how fierce the battle had been.

Even out of office, her Euro skepticism dominated cartoons. Lez Gibbard (ph) has her in 1991 as Queen Kong, climbing the Atlantic Free Trade Building with her pro European successor John Major a tiny figure, grasped in her paw.

Cartoonist Steve Bell says that Europe's complicated politics are a surprisingly rich name for caricature.

STEVE BELL, CARTOONIST: Long winded, boring subjects are somehow some of the best.

OAKLEY: Cartoonists have often reflected the British media's pugnacious suspicion of the EU, frequently depicting Britain as target or victim. Here in 2004, Mac has a horde of immigrants flattening the blind home secretary David Blunkett (ph) and his dog just after he's proclaimed that Britain's borders are still safe.

But some take the other tack.

BELL: IT's good to deflate and good to puncture that very attitude. Because you're right, there is a great deal of sort of barely covered, sort of littling to nourish kind of (INAUDIBLE) kind of nationalism.

OAKLEY: The supposedly pro European Tony Blair didn't escape. His defense of the EU's constitution being compared by Dave Brown with the worthless piece of paper Neville Chamberlain brought back from Munich.

But perhaps Gordon Brown will have it easier than Tony Blair. So far, cartoonists have him s something of a Euro skeptic. Here, Morton Moreland of "The Times" has an ego Blair urging Brown to follow the stars of European destiny.

"They're not moving," growls his then chancellor and now successor.

Robin Oakley, CNN, London.


SWEENEY: And that's all for this edition of INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENTS. Tune in again next time for another look at how the media are handling the big issues.

I'm Fionnuala Sweeney. Thanks for joining us.