As promised, Pakistan’s Pervez Musharraf today lifted the state of emergency that he imposed a few weeks ago. While the state of emergency was in place, Musharraf’s government conducted a number of operations against terrorist groups, including one just completed, successfully, in the Swat Valley. It was never clear, however, whether or to what extent those operations depended on Musharraf’s crackdown.
Today, Musharraf gave an interview to Lally Weymouth of the Washington Post. Musharraf said that while the state of emergency has been lifted, he will not reinstate the judges who were removed from office or repeal the “code of conduct” that he imposed on the Pakistani broadcast news media:
Q. You imposed a state of emergency. You announced it will be lifted on December 15th. Does that mean that the regulations recently imposed on the press will be lifted?
A. There are no restrictions on the press.
Q. Wasn’t there a code of conduct [mandating “responsible journalism”]?
A. We issued a code of conduct and asked them to sign it. It’s as good as you have in your own country. All the channels except one accepted it, and all except one are open. The print media were not closed at all.
Q. In the U.S., there is no code of conduct for journalists — they are free to write what they want.
A. If you see our press and electronic media, there is no problem criticizing the government. . . . The problem was that they were distorting realities and creating despondencies in the people of Pakistan by showing pictures of dead bodies and interviewing terrorists — not showing the law enforcement authorities in a good light but showing the terrorists in a better light. Thus they encouraged terrorism and discouraged the law enforcers. They were undermining the good work of the government, were entirely one-sided, and some responsibility had to be brought in.
Q. In the U.S., it would be unacceptable to have a code of conduct. Don’t you think you should lift that when you end the state of emergency?
A. No, the code of conduct is there in most countries of the world. Why should we compare the United States to Pakistan?
I believe the text of the “code of conduct” is here. It certainly does restrict broadcast news media in ways that would be unacceptable in the U.S. and most other Western countries. I find it interesting, though, that journalists who blast the Bush administration for trying to export Western-style democracy to the Muslim world nevertheless believe, pretty much without exception, that a Western-style adversary press is a universally applicable, cross-cultural value.
To comment on this post, go here.