Freedom has its limits
Muhammad Jamil


ACCORDING to Article 19 of the Constitution of Pakistan freedom of expression is not absolute. The said Article with regard to freedom of speech states: “Every citizen shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression, and there shall be freedom of the press, subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interest of the glory of Islam or the integrity, security or defence of Pakistan or any part thereof, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality, or in relation to contempt of court, commission of or incitement to an offence.” In addition to provisions in the Constitution, there are certain sacrosanct limits that have to be exercised in the civil polities; and universally accepted norms and standards have to be adhered to in all conditions. But all those niceties are thrown out of the window by a few writers and analysts.

They in fact take a particular pride in an uninhibited expression, holding it up boastfully as a manifest of their independent mind. In this pursuit, they in their first pretentious device pick up military and intelligence agencies for vituperative and onslaught, considering them as a fair game for expression of their unbounded freedom. They conveniently forget that free media comes with a package of advantages such as educating people, increasing the level of awareness, developing the public opinion and most importantly supporting the democratic system. However, there are some disadvantages, as more often than not it resorts to disseminating disinformation and advocating a specific propaganda on the behest of the adversaries of the state or some of its organs. The most dangerous facet of media freedom is when some specific media houses are influenced by the enemy state or its intelligence agency as part of psychological operations, hybrid warfare and non-Kinetic warfare.
These media groups promote negative themes which our enemies keep on coining, especially Indian intelligence agencies. The target of these themes is no other but the Armed Forces of Pakistan, ISI and lately the judiciary. Sadly, few elements of the political forces are following a similar narrative that favours our adversaries. Indians have always been very active in nurturing and trapping individual journalists as well as the media organizations in Pakistan as part of their non-Kinetic war against Pakistan. Reportedly, Geo TV/Jang Group fell prey to the scheme of our adversary long ago and is harping to the tune of RAW and fulfilling their agenda regrettably. The question is whether a media group should be allowed to distort the facts and confuse the people through their venomous propaganda, or be permitted to defame institutions of Pakistan? Of course, not; and nobody in his right sense would condone their vile acts.
In fact, freedom of expression is one of the most abused freedoms in Pakistan where commentariat have been flouting the provisions of the Constitution. The nation watched some TV talk shows in which participants unleashed avalanche of blistering censure against military and intelligence agencies of Pakistan. What kind of freedom of expression is it, which has possessed our chattering classes, analysts and pseudo-intellectuals that it knows no bounds or limits; and they are giving such a blatant display of it so recklessly and self-conceitedly? Surely, freedom of expression is an open polity’s inviolable part; but in no event can this freedom be a license to say things violating provisos of other articles of the Constitution or denigrating institutions of army and judiciary. In no event can this be a license to undermine security of Pakistan, as it has degenerated in this country.
If media is to become a credible source, it should provide reliable and accurate information, and work with utmost diligence to offer reports and comments objectively. Analysts should present their analysis, which should be unbiased and free of prejudices. Indeed, information is a source of learning; but unless it is organized, processed, and available to the right people in a format for decision making, it is a burden, not a benefit. However, credibility of media as a source of information is of paramount importance. It is therefore moral obligation of the right thinking and responsible media men to react strongly to irresponsible behavior of the unconscionable elements in the media, no matter who commits the act. Apart from that, the irresponsible minority needs strong sanctions from within the media to protect the good name and integrity of those who act responsibly.
A democrat or a nationalist could never think of passing derogatory remarks against the institutions like judiciary, executive including army and legislature of the country. And an effort to bring any of these institutions into disrepute or to weaken it by any quarters is tantamount to cause harm to the state. One cannot ignore the fact that media is being universally acknowledged as the fourth pillar of the state, which does not have the powers and authority like that of the other pillars of the state but plays an important role in a democratic society. By exposing the flawed policies of the government and corruption of the government functionaries, it helps promote the good governance for the benefit of the public at large. It is true that some pseudo-intellectuals give overriding consideration to their personal interests over national interest and while playing into the hands of aliens try to portray Pakistan as a failed state.
—The writer is a senior journalist based in Lahore.