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Friday, May 19, 2006

Reclaim the Airwaves!

Sadia Qasim Shah's report from Peshawar in the Dawn informs us of "Illegal FM radio stations, mostly run by clerics, fuelling extremist views about women’s rights and reinforcing conservative social values and extremism in many districts in the Frontier province."

What should the government's response be? Banning never worked well: If you silence someone, it does not mean you have converted her/him into your viewpoint. And even that is - at best - a debatable outcome, in terms of right/wrong, good/bad. The recent Blogger Ban, as stupid an act as imaginable, went away (by mistake, I am told) and is now back. Apart from a minor inconvenience for a few, it resulted in:
1. Criticism of our lack of freedoms, worldwide. Countering the image that had just begun to be accepted that, under President Musharraf, this aspect was getting better.
2. Selective action against only those who choose to blog via one particular platform. There are countless others available, legally. And publishing your views on the web takes numerous other shapes.
3. Several workarounds - all being used today.
4. Restricted access to the majority of blogs that wrote against the Cartoon Publications (as opposed to the odd few that provided links to them).
5. Reduction in the amount of Pakistani viewpoints that were available on the Internet. These not only helped us join global voices but also celebrated the diversity that is Pakistan.

My suggestion is to legalize them all. Let there be a battle of ideas. Let people choose what to listen to. Lower the cost of licenses. Let Women's Organizations and the moderately enlightened set up their FM Channels. Let Health and Education NGOs use them to spread better living conditions. Allocate bands and frequencies. Volume usage will bring down the price of the 'illegal' FM Broadcast Sets from their current 10K price. Encourage their 'beautification' and 'reliability' and let the makers export them to neighboring countries.

All this will reap far greater rewards to Pakistan than the money PEMRA makes. (A friend informs me, in a related email, "... PEMRA only allows the licences of FM stations to be 'bought' in an auction, with one of the recent ones going for as high as Rs. 30 million - incidentally in Peshawar!")

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3 Comments:

Blogger sabizak said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

20 May, 2006 22:29

 
Blogger the olive ream said...

Absolutely agree with you ZAK, open forums for ALL to voice their opinion. Real debate and unrestrained opinions is what is needed.

I myself in my new project am trying to convince a lot female bloggers to come to the fore. The collective voices of the sane will drive out the noise by the mullahs.

20 May, 2006 22:46

 
Blogger Zakintosh said...

sabizak: here's a thought. start a podcast for women, egging them on to change. want to discuss this further? email me.

22 May, 2006 17:27

 

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