Farrukh Khan Pitafi, an Islamabad-based TV journalist, writes in The Express Tribune about how “Pakistan-bashing still continues to sell when nothing else does” in India. The catalyst for Pitafi’s January 12 article appears to be a statement by former Indian army chief and junior minister for external affairs, V K Singh, which stated that “banning Indian content will not stop Pakistanis from watching Indian shows”.
His argument, more polemical than substantive, is justified thus: “When the BJP feared a defeat in Gujarat, Modi’s home state, at the hands of Congress, Modi accused his opponent of conspiring to install a … wait for it… Muslim as the chief minister of the province who obviously would be a stooge of Pakistan and guess what? It worked! The fact that Indian Muslims have served their motherland loyally if blindly, often laying their lives in its service, doesn’t matter. If they disagree with the BJP-RSS Hindutva agenda or the new wave of state-sponsored intolerance, they must be Pakistani stooges.”
However, Pitafi seems unaware of Singh’s political role, and rather seems to ascribe to him the views of a soldier rather than a BJP politician and minister: “The soldiers I have known in life, especially the ones who have risen high enough, always had an internalised discipline which ensured their guarded behaviour. But Gen Singh is not new to controversies.”
The real thrust of the article, its purpose, is to try and portray Indian “soft power” — Bollywood, TV serials et al — as part of a political deployment against Pakistan: “Indian politicians believe that the Indian film industry is not merely a cultural object but a political tool. Hindi newspapers usually are littered with statements where such politicians brag about the successful colonisation of Pakistani minds through Indian content. There are old statements ascribed even to Sonia Gandhi, the leading light of the Congress party, where she reportedly observed that Indian cinema had hollowed Pakistan out and its collapse was merely a matter of formality.”
One of the dangers of a massive electoral victory, as of the Sheikh Hasina-led Awami League (AL) in the recently concluded Bangladesh general election, is that it can make it seem to the ruling party that the diversities and cleavages in society can now be swept aside. According to the January 7 editorial in The Dhaka Tribune, ‘Welcoming the New Cabinet,’ Hasina has taken an important first step in that direction by rewarding good performance and appointing a cabinet that has new faces and fresh blood.
It then states that cooperation is key for the new government. “What we hope for as a nation is that the new cabinet and its members, be they old or new, will take charge of their duties with the utmost seriousness and vigour, and work with each other to ensure that Bangladesh’s path to progress remains on course. In the past, Bangladesh has often been held back by implementation falling short of intentions. We trust that the newly assigned cabinet members will do their very best to create a more efficient and effective polity. Cooperation will remain key in the future, as Bangladesh has tough and diverse and difficult challenges ahead. The need of the hour is to provide the highest quality public service to the citizens of this country who have worked tirelessly to take it to where it is now: A major economic powerhouse on an upward path towards prosperity,” the editorial notes
Unfree in Nepal
“Even decades after multi-party democracy, which promised all the inherent tenets of the system,” came to Nepal, “institutionalising press freedom is still proving to be problematic,” according to an editorial in The Himalayan Times. According to a report by the Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ), “2018 was not an easy year for media houses and journalists as the government frequently targeted them in a bid to curb press freedom.” “The Communication Monitoring Unit of the FNJ recorded as many as 58 cases of press freedom violations during the year. Actually, this could be seen as a big improvement from the previous year when the country recorded 73 such violations, but this does not provide much solace to the media operating in the country. Figures at times can be misleading, and that perhaps explains why as per the 2018 World Press Freedom Index, published by Reporters Without Borders, Nepal’s ranking slipped to 106th position with 32.05 points,” the editorial writes.
The editorial makes a strong case for institutionalisation of press freedom, with whatever legal and constitutional measures that would entail. “To demonstrate that it will work as per the spirit of the new Constitution, the government has no option but to amend or revise some of the draconian provisions to guarantee complete press freedom,” it notes.
The editorial also asks the media to play its role of as a watchdog more forcefully.