The Nation’s Pro-Censorship PositionSep 21st, 2011 | By admin | Category: Censorship, Daily Nawa-i-Waqt, The Nation
The Nation published an editorial praising the Lahore High Court for its order to ban websites “involved in displaying blasphemous content”. This pro-censorship position is not only self-defeating for a free media, it is thoroughly unworkable.
The first question that must be asked when approaching the topic of censorship is who is to decide what is censored. According to the LHC, the websites that should be banned contain blasphemous content. But who decides what is blasphemous?
It is easy to point fingers at websites like Facebook that include pages like the immature “Draw Muhammad Day”. But what about Ahmedi websites? Are these ‘blasphemous’ also? Is Malik Ishaq to be the judge of content? Will we see all Shia websites blocked also? Will the censors be Barelvi or Deobandi? What about Sufis?
One year ago, Chaudhry Rehmat Ali, Emir of Tehreek-e-Azmat-e-Islam told Daily Nawa-i-Waqt that 80 per cent of the Constitution is un-Islamic. Should government websites be banned also? Extremist groups like Hizb-ut-Tahrir that democracy itself is un-Islamic while some religious scholars say that Islam is firmly rooted in democracy. Who will decide what should be banned? Or should we just ban everything?
These problems also directly affect freedom of the press. When this same issue of internet censorship was raised last year, we wrote that internet censorship should worry the media.
The truth is, such an unchecked power of censorship is too easily open to abuse. Today we may be blocking access to some cartoons under the justification of anti-blasphemy laws. But tomorrow it might be a newspaper or TV station that is banned for the same justification.
Freedom of the media is a vital part of our democracy. That means even allowing the media the freedom to be wrong. The alternative may sound good at first, but it always ends up the same – and that is no freedom at all.
If the Media Mullahs decide that Facebook or Google is un-Islamic and should be banned, what is to stop them from deciding the same about Geo or Express 24/7 or even The Nation?
The Nation says that ‘the Western world needs to analyse its notions of freedom of speech and individual liberty’, but it is precisely this freedom of speech that has made Islam the fastest growing religion in the West. Censorship can never stop false or illegitimate or blasphemous ideas. Only by allowing freedom of speech can falsehoods be properly argued and corrected. This is the proper role of media – to present the facts and correct false information. By defending censorship, The Nation seems to be saying that it is unable to do its job. That says more about The Nation than the West.