Posted on | May 21, 2010 | 3 Comments
Pakistan is now blocking proxy servers, specific Twitter accounts and news stories. What’s even more crazy-making is that there are angry mobs out there showing public support for this, and all the sane people are too scared to speak up. Heck, even Pervez Musharraf says it’s a great idea.
Farieha Aziz, an assistant editor for the national magazine Newsline, went to the Karachi Press Club yesterday to cover a conference discussing the Facebook ban and found a mob of protesters outside. Not only was the conference badly received inside the Press Club, but the mob outside manhandled the conference organizer, Awab Alvi, and called him a non-Muslim. She writes:
Members of the procession outside got the scoop on what had taken place inside. For them Awab’s stance was as blasphemous as the Facebook page itself. And by the time we found out what a stir it had caused on the street and were directed to exit from the side gate, it was too late. Angry protesters had already made their way inside the club and caught hold of Awab, telling him to come outside and speak his mind to the crowd. Upon his refusal, they threatened to forcibly take him. More than once, different groups caught hold of him and pushed and shoved him around, lashing out at Awab for voicing his opinions.
Both Aziz and Awab had to seek shelter at the Press Club office for two hours before things calmed down enough for police and club officials to escort them out. Here’s the worst part:
So this is what happens in Pakistan when you disagree with public opinion. While we were protected from the lynch mob and cannot be thankful enough to the press club officials for taking speedy action, there were many people within the press club, journalists, who were disgusted with us and told us (more than once) to get out of the press club, even before the actual showdown with the protesters took place. What to say of these journalists and our media? Several TV channels were there when Awab was being shoved around – one man against so many others – but was that news worthy? Did any channel air footage of that? No.
The scariest part of this whole situation is not the absurd, exponentially expanding attempt by the government to control what its people can or cannot read. The truly horrifying thing is that its people, even its journalists and lawyers, don’t want to retain their freedom to think. Their public fury at perceived Western offenses against Muslims is having a chilling effect on the willingness of saner, cooler-headed people to speak up publicly.
The Pakistani people are not just sealing their own lips, they’re handing the government the duct tape.