Pakistan forces newspaper to print rebuttal

April 27th, 2008 - 3:37 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Pervez Musharraf

Islamabad, April 27 (IANS) The information ministry has forwarded letters from two Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) supporters to an English newspaper and asked it to print them to rebut an article criticising party leader Asif Ali Zardari. “In what is really unheard of, the press officer of the information ministry forwarded two letters of unknown PPP supporters to The News and asked for their publication as ‘rebuttal’ of my story ‘Zardari exposed as Nawaz walks a tightrope’ published in The News Saturday,” author Ansar Abbasi wrote Sunday in an article headlined “A dubious defence”.

Both the letters are in defence of Zardari, who is not part of the government, and his stance on reinstating the Supreme Court and high court judges sacked by President Pervez Musharraf after he declared an emergency in November.

While the PPP has a brigade of media managers and spokespersons, “still the party chose to use the information ministry and depended on unfamiliar commoners (if they really do exist) to rebut the story”, Abbasi wrote.

One of the “rebuttals”, authored by Muhammad Umar of Rawalpindi, said: “The contents of the news item are wild, scurrilous and aimed at maligning the person of Zardari.”

The other “rebuttal”, authored by Zara Shaukat of Karachi, said: “There is a general opinion that Abbasi and many other respected journalists, in their bid to simplify a complex issue, have been making attempts to present a black and white picture assigning the PPP the role of the villain that is acting as the biggest obstacle in the restoration of pre-Nov 3 judiciary.

“This is most unfortunate, more so because it ends up creating unrest in the public,” Shaukat wrote, adding: “It is no point creating unrest in the public by sensationalizing this subject merely for the purpose of selling copies and increasing viewer ship.”

According to Abbasi, it was “really unfortunate” that the PPP, which claims to be a champion of democracy and press freedom in Pakistan, had charged him, some other unidentified journalists, the media and indirectly the management of The News with the kind of allegations that former military ruler Musharraf did towards the end of his rule.

Around March, Musharraf’s media managers had been depicting a selected group of journalists as “negative”. Some media houses were also charged with conspiring against the general’s rule, Abbasi said.

“However, the PPP has started agitating against the media within the initial weeks of its government and that too through some strange sympathisers of Zardari and by using the influence of the information ministry.

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