Monday, July 20, 2009

The Scum of Pakistani Journalism

If you had any doubts about

1) the new Cyber-Crime Act, also known as the Pakistan Electronic Crimes Ordinance (PECO)

2) Ansar Abbasi, also known as the snivelling worm of journalism

take a load of this story in The News, proudly proclaiming the two working in tandem, to nab someone who sent a private email to Ansar Abbasi, allegedly with "blasphemous content."

Some choice selections from the story:

On the complaint of Ansar Abbasi, Editor Investigations, The News, and following initial investigations held by the IT Wing of the Jang Group, the FIA traced the accused through the obnoxious e-mail and got him arrested for allegedly committing blasphemy. This is the first case of its nature in Pakistan where an accused has been arrested for committing blasphemy through the Internet.

The accused is alleged to have sent an e-mail to Ansar Abbasi, at his official e-mail address, in response to the column of the senior journalist that appeared in the daily Jang on June 29. The accused used Dr Omar Zia as his name and used as the e-mail containing highly blasphemous material.


Since the Prevention of Electronic Crime Ordinance (PECO) does not have any provision covering the serious offence of blasphemy, therefore, the case was referred to the Karachi Police after the accused was arrested by the FIA under Section 5 of the FIA Act. The accused was probed by the concerned Cyber Crime Circle of the FIA in Karachi under Section 20 of PECO.

Later, on the advice of the FIA, a fresh complaint was lodged with the Karachi Police by Ansar Abbasi, reporting the receipt of blasphemous e-mails because PECO was inadequate to be applied in such a serious offence. On receipt of the said complaint and following the investigations carried out by the FIA, an FIR was formally lodged by the Karachi Police against the accused on blasphemy charges.

There are a number of issues that this case throws up. The first, of course, is the collusion between a journalist (Abbasi), a news orgnaization (Jang Group) and the authorities in a matter that held no significance to the public. The email, sent by the accused (even under a false identity) was sent privately to the journalist, did not from the looks of it contain any threats of harming the journalist or the news organization, and could not have led to any public incitement of any sort without it being made public by the journalist and the organization. That, rather than simply ignoring an "obnoxious" email or replying to it privately, the journalist and his news organization would inform (i.e. rat out to) the authorities in order to track down the sender and prosecute him, tells you much about the journalistic credentials of both. As someone who does not tire of being self-righteous about other journalists who collude with government, Ansar Abbasi should know this is precisely what he has done.

Secondly, it also shines a light on how exactly the PECO is going to be (mis)used. Once again, the said email/s did not, prima facie, include anything that could be considered as bringing the security of the country into threat or disrepute, which the government has been claiming is the only matter PECO will address. Neither did it have any "malicious", or "ill-motivated" hoax directed against the government - this was a private email sent to a private individual, expressing an opinion. That the FIA should deem it fit to get involved in this matter, makes a mockery of the parameters of even this highly controversial law.

Finally, it also raises the red flag over the Taliban-mindset within so-called independent journalists such as Ansar Abbasi and segments of a government supposedly opposed to the persecution of citizens on religious grounds. The fact that both connived in registering a case under the odious blasphemy laws - which carry a mandatory death sentence - against an individual, indicates exactly where their commitment to freedom of speech and expression lie. At issue here is not how "blasphemous" the emails allegedly were. The simple point of the matter is they were not in the public domain and could not have caused any "public reaction" (the fallback response of the witch-hunters); they were simply used to settle personal scores and persecute someone who obviously had hurt Mr. Abbasi's gargantuan ego.

A sad, sad day for Pakistan's citizens and Pakistani journalism.


Zakintosh said...

For the Dung Group, of course, it's business as usual … but Ansar Abbasi needs to have his testimonials chopped off!

Serial Kicker said...

I still want to know who the dictator is. Musharraf who wasn't elected but did believe in accountability or Zardari's lot who were elected yet would pass all legislations that protect their own interests.

Tazeen said...

Oh God, the minute I see the names like Ansar Abbasi and Rauf Klasra, i puke a little ... scums indeed

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