No TV, don’t matter: Pakistanis take to the Internet for news

November 14th, 2007 - 8:38 am ICT by admin  
According to a Christian Science Monitor report, Pakistanis are finding breaking news in live video feeds and special blogs set up online, the only forum of public discourse that the media ban has missed.

Indeed, Pakistan today is a very different country from the one Musharraf took over eight years ago. In his 1999 coup, the military had only to target the offices of PTV, the only TV news source in the country at the time, and cut off all phone lines provided by the state-owned company to complete an information blackout.

Since then, Musharraf has allowed for a blossoming of free and independent media - a force with which, ironically, he now finds himself in contention.

As if to thumb his nose at the media ban, deposed Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, managed to call a group of lawyers from a concealed cell phone on Tuesday while under house arrest.

A digital recording of his speech has since been leaked to the Web, where Pakistanis can download it from the BBC’s Urdu service.

“By shutting private media down, they thought they could control the political message,” says Adnan Rehmat, who heads Internews Pakistan, a Washington-based media watchdog group.

Before this weekend, PTV faced stiff competition from a panoply of informative news stations. GEO-TV was the first private news channel to go on air in 2002 and ever since, whether originating in Pakistan or beaming in from nearby Dubai, Pakistanis have had a buffet of TV viewing options.

Today, there are over 60 independent TV channels, and that number was expanding rapidly. Many of them broadcast news exclusively.

An accompanying boom in Internet access and mobile phone ownership has fundamentally transformed the information environment in the country

Recent Gallup report suggests that today, more than 15 percent of urban Pakistanis have Internet access. There are also estimated to be more than 60 million mobile phone users. Together, the technologies have connected people in ways unimaginable a few years ago.

Blogs and social networking sites have also managed in the past three days to organize protest rallies, start international petitions, and plan strategies for opposing military rule.

Many independent blogs are now also hosting channels like GEO-TV, AAJ-TV, and ARY. While not shown on TV in Pakistan, TV news networks here continue to send reports abroad via satellite.

So, Pakistanis living in London or Los Angeles get the news. They, in turn, are putting the footage on their own websites, enabling Pakistanis back home to see the news. (ANI)

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