April 10, 2007

Tech-Crunch:-Blogging in a Land Where the Press Isn't Free

LAHORE, Pakistan -- To look at a typical newsstand, Pakistan's press appears vibrant and diverse. There are more than 100 national and regional newspapers -- several dozen in English -- and judging by the oft-fiery editorial pages, columnists and journalists are free from shackles. Compare this to other Muslim nations where journalists are routinely jailed, or worse, for the slightest slights against the ruling institutions. Egypt. Morocco.

But according to local blogger Mohammad Khan, "it's one of the biggest hoaxes there is -- the belief that the (Pakistani) press is free."

Indeed. Reporters Without Borders ranks Pakistan 157th out of 168 countries in terms of press restrictions. The Pakistan Press Foundation reported that 33 journalists were recently "detained" for protesting police action against a broadcaster in Islamabad.

So far, bloggers like Khan have managed to fly below the government's radar, but the internet is coming quickly to this nation that borders not just India, but also China, Afghanistan and Iran. A growing middle class already has DSL at home. Internet cafes, though still limited, offer decent connections for just 20 rupees (33 cents) an hour.


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