From the August 1999 issue of World Press Review (VOL. 46, No. 08)


Tightening the Screws

Steven Shabad, World Press Review contributing editor

In separate moves, the governments of Pakistan and Kazakhstan have escalated pressure on the news media recently. Najam Sethi, editor in chief of the Lahore liberal weekly Friday Times, was arrested by Pakistani agents after delivering a speech in India that was critical of Islamabad.

New Delhi's liberal Indian Express recalls that Pakistan's information minister had once described his government as "media friendly." The newspaper then asks whether it is "media friendly" to send "30 policemen to raid the home of a prominent Lahore-based editor under the cover of darkness without a warrant, threaten to shoot his publisher wife, and spirit him away into oblivion?" After more than three weeks in custody, Sethi was released.

A draft law in Kazakhstan's parliament on the news media has raised concerns among human-rights advocates. Sections are so vaguely worded, reports Sergei Kozlov in Moscow's liberal Nezavisimaya Gazeta, that they "will inevitably lead to arbitrary interpretations in the direction of a crackdown."

President Nursultan Nazarbayev put out mixed signals. He asked for a review of the provision on shutting down publications. But later he warned, in Kozlov's paraphrase, that "no one can abuse freedom of expression, [which] journalists in Kazakhstan enjoy ... often to the detriment of Kazakhstan's state system." Kozlov quoted the president as saying: "I am not interested in the opinion of a bunch of journalists."

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