Pakistan announces ‘massive’ social media crackdown

Social media users in Pakistan have frequently reported receiving warnings about unlawful content on social media. (AFP)
Updated 13 February 2019
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Pakistan announces ‘massive’ social media crackdown

  • Pakistani officials said they will start a campaign against online users who spread hate speech and violence
  • Various local and international organizations criticize Pakistan's restrictions and control of media

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani authorities Wednesday vowed to carry out a "massive" crackdown targeting hate speech and extremism on social media, as a minister boasted arrests have already been made.
Officials in Pakistan are frequently accused of muzzling the media and targeting individuals critical of the country's powerful military establishment and have blocked hundreds of websites and social media accounts over the years.
Information minister Fawad Chaudhry announced the government was setting up a new enforcement arm to regulate social media during a speech in the capital Islamabad.
"We made some arrests last week and by the will of Allah we are launching a massive crackdown against social media users spreading hate speech and violence," he said.
Self-censorship in the South Asia nation is widely believed to be rife at traditional news outlets.
"Our problem is that digital media is over taking formal media so it is important for us to regulate this," Chaudhry added, saying: "Informal media is a greater problem than formal media."
The announcement comes days after authorities arrested a journalist for allegedly posting defamatory content on social media.
And on Tuesday an opinion piece in the International New York Times criticizing Pakistan's powerful army was censored by its local publisher and replaced by a blank space.
Activists and bloggers frequently report receiving warnings from Facebook and Twitter for posting unlawful content.
Local media also complained about pressure in the run-up to a general election in July to self-censor in favor of the eventual victor, cricketer-turned-prime-minister Imran Khan.
The Committee to Protect Journalists said the army had "quietly but effectively, set restrictions on reporting" in a report released September last year.


Arab News at 44: Online Pakistan edition has formed its own regional identity

Updated 20 April 2019
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Arab News at 44: Online Pakistan edition has formed its own regional identity

  • Arab News expanded its footprint entering Pakistan in mid 2017
  • Its Pakistan Edition was founded on February 2018 and has been a major success

ISLAMABAD: Arab News’ online Pakistan edition, which launched on Feb. 8, 2018, has established itself as a credible extension of the Riyadh-based newspaper, which today marks its 44th anniversary.
Arab News entered Pakistan as part of the newspaper’s ongoing global and digital expansion, and to tap news from other parts of Asia, hiring skilled journalists and freelance contributors.
An exclusive interview in October 2018 with Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, who was newly elected as prime minister at the time, catapulted Arab News in Pakistan.
Realizing the news potential in the country, Arab News capitalized on its success and set up a bureau, but not before landing more special reports that grabbed the local media’s attention and attracted a larger readership.
The website www.arabnews.pk became the parent organization’s first in a series of country-specific online editions that the newspaper is planning to launch, and is part of its “more digital, more global” strategy.
Former Minister of Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry, who on Thursday was appointed minister for science and technology, officially inaugurated the newspaper’s Pakistan bureau earlier this year.
Led by award-winning veteran journalist Baker Atyani, and under the guidance of Arab News Editor-in-Chief Faisal J. Abbas, the team at the Pakistan edition has worked diligently to penetrate the country’s vibrant news market.
As such, followership of the newspaper’s Pakistan social media account has quickly ballooned.
Its online coverage of the first visit of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to Pakistan in February was widely praised.
Arab News published special reports and features on the deep-rooted and diversifying ties between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.
Also a major hit was Abbas’s exclusive, lengthy sit-down with President Dr. Arif Alvi during the crown prince’s visit.
Another exclusive that garnered a serious online buzz was on Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris offering to build 100,000 housing units in Pakistan.
The Pakistan edition has kept a special focus on business and finance, and has spoken with movers and shakers, including those in the corridors of power.
In August 2018, it exposed the ruling party’s hit single “Rok Sako To Rok Lo Tabdeeli Aayi Re,” produced for the last general election, as being suspiciously similar to a remixed version of the Indian religious song “Bankya Maa Re Nach. The report was instantly picked up by Pakistani media.
Days before the election, Atyani conducted a one-on-one exclusive with Prime Minister Imran Khan.
Arab News’ Pakistan edition is part of the regional publishing giant Saudi Research and Marketing Group (SRMG). With the edition’s success, the SRMG is looking to replicate the model across Asia.