The Media

The Media

The press, television, and radio are vital forces in Pakistan's political life. The importance of the press was evident even before independence. In prepartition India, Muslim journalism flourished until the Sepoy Rebellion of 1857-58, when many Muslim newspapers were shut down. Between 1857 and the Government of India Act of 1935, which gave a large measure of self-government to Indians, none of the major newspapers were owned or edited by Muslims. However, when Indian Muslims began to organize and rally to the political platform of the All-India Muslim League, concerted efforts were made to develop a strong press to support the Muslim national cause. A number of Muslim-owned newspapers were established, including Azad, a Bengali-language daily founded in Calcutta in 1936. Two English-language newspapers, Morning News in Calcutta and Dawn in Delhi, began publishing in 1942. In the late 1930s, the first Indian Muslim news agency, the Orient Press of India, was founded.

On the eve of independence, however, only four major Muslimowned newspapers existed in the area constituting the new state of Pakistan: Pakistan Times, Zamindar, Nawa-i- Waqt, and Civil and Military Gazette, all located in Lahore. A number of Muslim newspapers moved to Pakistan. Dawn began publication as a daily in Karachi, then the federal capital, on the day of independence in 1947. Other publications were also shifted to Pakistan including the Morning News and the Urdu-language dailies Jang and Anjam.

In the early 1990s, there are over 1,500 newspapers and journals in the country, including publications in Urdu, English, and in regional languages. The major national daily newspapers in Urdu are Jang, Nawa-i-Waqt, Jasarat, Masawat, Mashriq, and Hurriyat. The major national dailies in English are Dawn, Pakistan Times, Muslim, Morning News, Nation, Frontier Post, and News. Herald is an important English-language magazine.

Newspapers and periodicals are owned by either private individuals, joint-stock companies, or trusts. The National Press Trust, a nonprofit organization that is a major newspaper publisher, was established by businessmen in 1964 and taken over by the government in 1972. There are several other large newspaper and journal publishers. The two major news agencies in Pakistan are the Associated Press of Pakistan and Pakistan Press International. The Associated Press of Pakistan was taken over by the government in 1960. Pakistan Press International is a private joint-stock company.

Radio also has been an effective method of communication because the literacy rate is low and other methods of communication are sometimes not available. The Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation has played a key role in disseminating information and transmitting government policies as well as promoting Islamic principles and their application. Another state-run organization, Azad Kashmir Radio, broadcasts in Azad Kashmir. Television, although newer, has also been effective, with coverage in the mid-1990s reaching more than 80 percent of the population. Until August 1990, the only television channel was the government-owned Pakistan Television Corporation (PTV). At that time, however, another television channel, People's Television Network was established. People's Television Network brought Cable News Network (CNN) to Pakistan.

The media played an active role in all three national elections from the late 1980s to the mid-1990s. Although the government-owned radio and PTV presented a progovernment line, the establishment of People's Television Network ended government monopoly of television news. In the case of the print media, government-controlled newspapers tended to express the government's viewpoint, but the large private sector of print journalism furnished a much greater variety of opinion.

The imposition of regulations based on the sharia was also reflected in the media. For example, the government required all women to wear dupattas, or scarfs, over their heads on newscasts and other PTV programs. Such restrictions, for instance, prevented the women's swimming events of the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games from being telecast to Pakistan because the swimsuits were regarded as immodest. Radio censors also ordered a number of controversial songs dropped from broadcasting.

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