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Pak press slams Musharraf

Source: PTI
February 08, 2004 02:02 IST
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Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf on Saturday came in for sharp criticism by the media for his outburst against the Fourth Estate, which carried stories on nuclear proliferation, saying it was 'disturbing' and indicative of return of past policies of muzzling the press.

The media, however, supported Musharraf's decision to keep a lid on the raging controversy over nuclear proliferation by pardoning the father of the country's nuclear bomb A Q Khan for leaking sensitive technology to Iran, Libya and North Korea.

"His statement that the press should guard the 'national interest' even if such allegations (about nuclear proliferation) were true is surprising. It is the press' duty to uncover the truth, for it is impossible for the truth to be against the national interest," The Nation said in an editorial.

Referring to Musharraf's assertions in a briefing to editors on Thursday that adverse media coverage from Pakistan could lead to the country's isolation in the world, the daily said, "This cannot be correct, for foreign states are not so naive as to form their nuclear proliferation policies on the basis of the columnists of the Pakistani press."

It also said Musharraf's remarks against the media could be 'disturbing indications' that past policy of muzzling the media might be coming back. "If the press is to perform its watchdog role, it has to probe all possibilities without fear or favour," it said.

Another newspaper, Daily Times, in its editorial described Musharrraf's approach to media as 'haughty and condescending'.

Musharraf's assertion that the media should not have printed foreign articles 'damaging to Pakistan' is stretching the point too far, it said.  

The press in Pakistan, by and large, including this newspaper, exercised much restraint on the story about nuclear leaks for as long as possible. "But this position could not be maintained after the entire western press went after the news, with most stories being datelined Islamabad," it said.

The paper said it was like Bush administration asking newspapers in the United States to refrain from publishing stories of its failures in Iraq because in its perception it was against the US national interest.

"If a government policy goes bad, heads should roll in government and the press cannot be faulted for pointing this out. Equally Musharraf's reference to the Iranian, Libyan and the North Korean press would have extracted a laugh if the matter under discussion were not so serious. Is there a free press in Libya and North Korea and even in Iran?" it asked.

"The press is easy to browbeat, especially when journalists are sitting in a press conference and have been bombarded with allegations of acting against the national interest," the paper said referring to Musharraf's press meet.

However, The Nation said Musharraf "successfully negotiated a minefield at his press briefing on nuclear proliferation issue, managing the difficult task of balancing the need to be candid about what happened while holding back information that might adversely impact on national security."

The Daily Times said, "The nuclear proliferation episode needed to be put to rest as quickly as possible in the national interest and General Pervez Musharraf has mercifully taken the right steps to do just that."  

Complete Coverage: Pakistan's N-secrets


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