Last week, for a brief period, the top-trending hashtag on Twitter in Pakistan was #ArrestAntiPakJournalists. The July 4 editorial in Dawn raises important questions about the conditions of possibility and implications of such a discourse against the media, which are relevant across South Asia, including in India.
The editorial points out that the Twitter attack on journalists was not spontaneous, “but rather an orchestrated campaign with a limited set of messages and visuals — including calls to ‘hang’ media persons — being reproduced en masse by dubious accounts”.
As has been increasingly the case in India, despite such calls to violence being illegal, those attacking critics of the government and military often appear to be acting with impunity. The editorial argues that “irrespective of whether these perceptions are true”, the campaign is worrying for several reasons.
There is, of course, a fear that such targeting engenders. The first casualty of this is often journalistic and critical integrity, whether consciously or not. Essentially, a form of self-censorship, and sometimes bravado, can result as a response to such threats. “Secondly, it creates a false narrative, misleading the public directly through misinformation within the information broadcast, and indirectly by suggesting this is what people truly think.”
Third, such words and threats, even on social media, can actually “embolden the small majority” that would undertake violence against journalists. And finally, blatant attacks on Pakistan’s citizens reduce its credibility for the outside world.
Rohingya and labour
In Cox’s Bazaar, in Chittagong, Bangladesh, there reside one million “nobodies”. Khawaza Mainuddin writes in The Daily Star. There is a reluctance in Dhaka to grant the Rohingya as refugees, while the government in Myanmar has refused to recognise these individuals as citizens. The writer, a celebrated journalist, after recounting the toll that these refugees have taken on Bangladesh’s economy, makes some uncomfortable points: “Since the harsh reality of today is that the Rohingya Muslim people are living here with no possibility of immediate repatriation in sight, it’s neither honourable for them nor affordable for a densely populated country such as Bangladesh to spoon-feed them for years.”
He then argues, essentially, that the Rohingya in Bangladesh should be put to work: “When their status as refugees in Bangladesh and settlement in other countries are also not assured, why don’t the stakeholders of the Rohingya crisis response process, especially the government and the United Nations, come to an agreement that they need livelihoods?”
While the argument is seemingly callous, Mainuddin does make a case for gainful employment being key to the “outsiders” not being idle and helping them gain an identity. Also, their being gainfully employed could help reduce emerging tensions with the local population.
IIFA in Nepal
Both the Nepal government and the International Indian Film Academy have confirmed that the 19th IIFA awards will be held in Kathmandu. Almost as soon as this was announced, the move has been criticised, according to an article in The Himalayan Times on July 4, “by all strata of Nepali society”.
The article by Sumitra Chakaraborty, editor of Stardust, then attempts to argue the benefits of holding the IIFA in Kathmandu, citing largely the “glitz and glamour” of Bollywood and the “millions” that would be poured into Nepal for the function.
According to the article, the greatest criticism has come from “many stalwarts from the ailing Nepali Film industry which accused the government of having a ‘lackadaisical attitude’ towards them and yet injecting “ridiculous” amounts into the IIFA which according to them were already cash rich and did not need support from the Nepal government.”
The article claims that while the criticisms against the government “may be justified”, they ignore the positive impact the IIFA can have on the industry. It then cites the example of Belfast, Ireland, where Game of Thrones was shot, and suggests that IIFA could also help Kathmandu become a similar hub for the visual commercial arts: “Voila, Game Of Thrones stormed the globe and ended up becoming the foremost hit series in the world. And suddenly, Belfast became a buzzing hub for curious tourists who wanted to see where the hit series was shot. It not only injected a boost into the tourism sector but pumped in a record millions into the economy. Suddenly there were hundreds of jobs created and available, and the country flourished as visitors pumped in more than 2.5 million pounds into the economy everyday.”
What the article does not take into account is the politics behind the protest. First, people may well argue that comparing IIFA to Game of Thrones, the most successful TV show in history is ridiculous. Second, part of the chagrin in Nepal stems from India’s perceived will to dominance – cultural, economic and political — in the region. Talking about Bollywood as a saviour may not help matters.