Media


Gen Musharraf is facing an unprecedented challenge to his rule President Pervez Musharraf has signed into immediate effect measures to increase control over the media. Current regulations related to television have been extended to the internet and mobile phones. Some regulations on who is allowed to be licensed to broadcast in Pakistan have been extended to cover “any foreign non-governmental organisation”.

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There are reports on resilience and protest by our colleagues across the region: the new hope for media freedom in Nepal after the signing of the historic peace accord in November last year; the inauguration of media privatisation in Bhutan; the deterioration of journalist safety in Afghanistan as they become hostage targets to insurgents; the muzzling of media in Sri Lanka due to controversial terrorism laws; growing government hostility against journalists in Pakistan and the Maldives; mounting pressure faced by Indian journalists in conflict zones; and uncertain times for the Bangladesh media in its current state of emergency.

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During his eight-year reign of terror, Idi Amin killed more than 400,000 Ugandans, including members of his own Cabinet. But it was the expulsion of some 70,000 Asians, more than half of whom held British passports, in 1972, that gained the world’s attention, and led to international condemnation of the Ugandan leader. Similarly, it was the recent lynching of an Asian trader, Deval Rawal, that made headlines around the world, not the fact he was one of three casualties (the other two were Ugandan Africans, who were shot dead by police) of an environmental protest gone wrong.

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Media portrayals of South Asians have progressed little since Peter Sellers played a desi oaf in The Party, and Disney is the number one culprit. At least Aladdin featured a brown hero and heroine. Little did we know that Disney was reserving its worst transgressions for 1994’s Jungle Book. The greatest insult in Disney’s treatment is not the casting, but the plot of the film itself. Sam Neill plays the father because his ancestors spent generations in the British army in India. Neill enjoys the luxury of reliving colonialism, but this time without a conscience: the natives are savages with designs on white women, so they deserve whatever they get.

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The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has withdrawn a campaign VCD intended for the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. The VCD, featuring blatantly anti-Muslim filth, was withdrawn within a day of release. Journalist Siddharth Varadarajan has translated some excerpts and posted them on his blog. Please do read his transcript, it’s worth a look…

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Every few months we are witness to the imagined persecution of Gandhi. The latest is an advertisement for a credit card firm in South Africa where the Mahatma’s lips are shown moving to convey that he is speaking on behalf of the brand. The ad agency, getting all defensive, has come up with a ridiculous excuse: “Gandhi is featured alongside other icons who stood for fighting against injustice and for the rights of the man in the street.” What does the possession of a credit card have to do with justice? How many men in the street use plastic money? Predictably there have been protests, and these are even more ludicrous.

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Pakistan’s best known English language newspaper, the Dawn, has hit out at President Musharraf over his government’s “increasingly intolerant” attitude towards the press. The move comes not long after the General’s recent volte-face over police ransacking of the country’s biggest broadcaster Geo TV. Musharraf is said to be facing one of the biggest challenges to his leadership since coming to power in 1999.

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