Book Reviews Freedom of the Press: The War on Words (1977-1978)


  • Syed Jaffar Ahmed


Journalism in Pakistan has passed through successive phases of trials and tribulations. The crises journalism had to undergo since independence had their origin both in the state policies as well as the authoritarianism embedded in the society. The book under review does not claim to divulge into the societal challenges which have emerged more visibly in the last three or four decades, especially, in the context of the spread of religious extremism and ethnic and other types of militancy in the society. Studies need to be done on these aspects as well as the external factors that have had impact on the growth and the content of media. The latter has come in the garb of globalization that has greatly affected the local environment and has come to strongly affect, if not directly dictate, what the media should encompass and present. Leaving the societal and global aspects aside, the role of the state and the successive governments has a lot to offer to be written about by way of what the media has endured in the last seventy plus years. It doesn’t need too much of pondering to conclude that the major pressures over media have come from the governments who, by and large, had been quite at unease with independent flow of information, and criticism of their policies. And, unfortunately, this process had begun right after Independence when newspapers’ and periodicals’ independent voice was tried to be silenced, and they were pressurized to toe the official line with respect to domestic and foreign policies. Pakistan’s independent journey, unfortunately, began with the imposition of black laws which prohibited dissent and curtailed freedom of expression in the strongest possible manner.