Is Pakistan's Ansar Abbasi being banned?

By Mazhar Abbas/CPJ Guest Blogger on August 22, 2012 9:54 AM ET

Ansar Abbasi, editor of investigations for Pakistan's leading media group Jang, is apparently facing a de facto ban from his own employers. Other TV channels also report being told not to air his views. Abbasi has charged cable operators with spreading immoral, anti-Islamic messages through Indian movies and other popular culture broadcasts. In response, he says, they are censoring his views.

I have had my differences with Abbasi, but I consider him one of the best investigative reporters in the country. When he told me by telephone that cable operators had met with media owners, pressuring them to ban him for hurting their commercial interests, I believed him. Other sources confirmed his story. Anchors and directors, both in news and current affairs, told me that they have been told not to invite him as a guest or take his calls. Abbasi's column in the daily Jang newspaper did not appear last week, raising suspicion that it was due to outside pressure.

He is not the only one. The Dawn media network recently withdrew a show on the morality of cable content--hosted by Pakistan's most prominent anchor, Talat Hussain--within 10 minutes of broadcast, because of pressure from cable operators.

Though soft spoken, Abbasi has strong views about morality in the media. He wants a ban on all Indian channels and strict checks on potentially offensive content in Pakistani dramas and movies. The issue is in the public eye. Pakistan's Supreme Court, responding to a petition filed by Abbasi and others, recently levied fines against the Pakistan Electronic Regulatory Authority for failing to regulate TV broadcasts for obscenity.

Others do not support a ban on Indian channels. They feel it up to the viewer to decide which channel they want to watch and which they don't. However, there is a general consensus that cable operators have no right to ban any journalist or censor his column.

Cable operators, for their part, deny that they have pressured media owners to bar Ansar Abbasi or other coverage of the debate over Indian channels. Yet they have huge power. Any channel that resists risks being taken off air. As a result, many media outlets air press conferences of the Cable Operators Association uninterrupted, even at the expense of important news events.

Under these circumstances, Abbasi faces an uphill task. He certainly has a right to work freely, and censorship of his views must be recognized and condemned. Journalists need to speak up in his support--not of his views, but of his right to express those views. 


I support Ansar Abbasi and his thoughts about a ban on vulgarity. I also agree with Mazhar Abbas that censorship of Abbasi views must be recognized and condemned. The TV channels owners should not be blackmailed by cable operators who never respected for the country's laws. Cable operators are emerging as a new mafia in Pakistan and the TV channels owners are helpless. PEMRA role must also be condemned. It has never checked the violation of even its rules by cable operators in setting of channels.

Journalists should stand behind Ansar Abbasi to counter the blackmailing of the cable operators and owners of TV channels who always serve their interests.

Best option in the circumstances is to digitise and destroy the intermediary role of the cable operators. They are becoming a lobby with disproportionate power, though they do little of value in the chain of information transmission. And in India at least, they are mostly believed to be closely connected with local crime and extortion syndicates. Removing their intermediary function would allow every household to watch whatever it wants and for every broadcaster to get a clear idea of the kind of audience that it reaches.

Sukumar Muralidharan August 22, 2012 11:57:47 AM ET

Why he is whining about cable operators not respecting his freedom of speech when he did not want to play others freedom to show Indian programs in Pakistan. if you have remote then no worry mr Abbasi or you can use VHS-UHS antennas. Cable ops doing the right thing to censor a man who has fascist tendencies and want to be an angel of moral policing on tv channels.

The cable operators should not censor the views of a journalist.Mr Abbasi has every right to express his views on Indian Channels. However Abbasi himself want to censor Indian channels in Pakistan.Let the people judge what they want to see on the TV screen. Government may regulate TV contents through self regulation, which is best practice.It is not surprising that views advocating censor of a particular media may also face the scissor,though I oppose censoring Mr Abbasi's opinion.

People like Abbasi would love to dictate whole nation ,from food to clothing,table manners etc etc.Fans of theocratic state with no basic human allowed.Want An Arabic Pakistan & impose a sub standered culture on us who have a very impressive civilization going 6000 years back.Trying to isolate nation ever more ,No Manto or Ismat Chugtai will ever surface.All their so called Foohashi spins around women.In my opinion a very evil school of thought that he represents & he will never voice about Amir Liqat , first religious play boy in Pakistan,smiles so much that one feels like spewing.I would not have wanted to ban him but to put him & likes of him to their real place through media . Those people r only brave in a favorable environment , otherwise all those r egoist like children in big size boots with very small feet, can piss in pants or shorts any given time --lol

THANKS Mazhar abbas for raising the issue .Unfortunately cable operators have become an mafia in SOUTH Asia . No doubt Abbasi has very conservative ideas which can be contested but he has a right togive his opinion like pro india and u s loving columnist.But there is a need to formulate some policy to give a guide line to all media entities , anchors writers, owners and cable operatrs.

Ansar is a thoroughly honest professional and entitled to his views - regardless of whether somebody agrees with him or not.

Unfortunately, the cause he is concerned about is the interest of the channel owners as well; the way most of the private channels imposed special Ramadhan-related programmes - extended broadcasts with huge expenses with the help of controversial people like Amir Liaqat Hussein and Dr.Shahid Masood and so many others - an unusually over-emphasis on Ramadhan in a nation that is already extremely low in productivity and where people at large simply take cover of the Ramadhan to shun or escape their duty.

Commercial interests of channel owners and of cable operators essentially converge to put back professional opinion and critical views. Also, people often restrict their views on obscenity and vulgarity to display of female flesh but ignore the fraud, the lies, the hypocracy and deception (deployed by the ruling elite as well as others) that goes on in this country. These ills are much more dangerous to the social evolution than half-naked women, or perceptibly liberal video content.

Journalists, however, must not be banned or barred from their rightful views on these issues and this is what the journalist community must stand for.

Umm, does one have the right to cry foul against censorship when one is an ardent supporter of censorship? :)

Mazhar Abbas is clearly biased. Since when Talat Hussain become Pakistan's "most prominent anchor"? He is not even among top ten as far as ratings go. He has been kicked out from four channels so far because he is useless. He is constantly trying to project himself as "hero". And how is Ansar Abbasi "one of the best investigative reporters" in the country? Everyone knows he is recipient of "investigative" handouts by Military Agencies or Registrar of supreme court. Ansar Abbasi is" Islamic expert" in everything. He is a political agitator, not journalist. And Mazhar Abbas is trade-unionist fighting for plots of land from government for himself and collegues.

Well said Mr Mazhar Abbas. I really appreciate your struggle put-forward to raise the voice against this illegitimate act by media owners Jang group and all other media groups which have nothing to do with the ideology and identity of Pakistan and who deeply concerned about their profitability on monetary basis. Ansar Abbasi, wherever you are and whatever circumstances you have to face, every patriotic Pakistani will pray for you and will always stand by you as a token of acknowledgement of efforts you put-forward to protect the ideological sovereignty of our beloved motherland. May ALLAH protect u and guide u to the path of glory and success! Amin

Ansar Abbasi is NOTHING. He is a self centred person trying to dictate the world. He should be expelled from the media for good.

How does hate speech come under freedom of expression? In the first place, your technically wrong with you support the freedom of 'views' for an 'investigative journalist'. As a reader, I am not interested in reading or hearing someone's personal view. Therefore, it is very important to separate reporting from personal opinion. As far as Mr. Abbasi's personal opinion is concerned, he incites violence and hatred on a number of issues ranging from anti-Americanism to support for the blasphemy law that led to the killing of the Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer.
It is disappointing to see CPJ being used as a tool in the hands of Pakistani right wingers.

I find Mr.Mazhar Abbas's logic very strange.
Its ok for Self righteous Ansar Abbasi to demand BAN on potentially offensive content in Pakistani dramas and movies. Such a demand does not constitute encroachment on freedom of expression When cable operators ban Abbasi they are violating freedom of expression.
Why should Govt and more so Abbasi, JI and their likes act as a guardian angle of the people.

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