By Zuhair Siddiqui
THE history of the first generation of Pakistan is strewn with mutilations of the rights and liberties that give meaning to political independence. Political activity and organisation, trade unionism, public speech, the people’s franchise, the gathering and publication of news, and press comment — all have been subjected during these thirty years to various kinds and degrees of restriction and control. The constraints have at times amounted to total suppression.
The denial of freedom to the Press, in a way, lies at the heart of the wider, perennial problem of authoritarianism and regimentation. The Press is the watchdog of the people’s freedom and, as an Englishman observed two centuries ago, its liberty is the “palladium of the civil, political and religious rights” of the individual.
Nearly a hundred and fifty years later, the truth of this pithy observation was elucidated by the great socialist political thinker, Harold Laski. He regarded an assertive critical spirit among the citizens as vital to the preservation of their rights, and the freedom of the Press as vital to the whole concept of responsible democratic government: Continue reading “The press: Thirty tortured years”