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Pakistani TV Channels in India

New Delhi, Sun, 15 Jul 2012 ANI

New Delhi, July 15 (ANI): Pakistan has approached India on the possibility of lifting the ban on Pakistani channels (both government and private) being aired in India. India, it appears, has responded positively to the proposal, and this is a good sign.

But allowing Pakistani television channels from airing content in India has nothing to do with "sprucing up" (as one media outlet put it) people-to-people contact. It has even less to do with warm and fuzzy notions of reconciliation and "peace" between India and Pakistan.

Instead, by permitting Pakistani television channels from broadcasting content, India will be underscoring its own confidence and commitment to its liberal democratic credentials. Whether and to what extent Pakistan reciprocates is irrelevant.

The notion that censuring information and opinion emanating from sources considered adversarial is a relic of an era that preceded the proliferation of electronic media.

India, for example, blocked the Internet website of the Karachi-based English-language newspaper, Dawn, during the Kargil war in order to prevent the dissemination of Pakistani propaganda during the conflict.

More recently, there have been protests in Pakistan against the "spreading of Indian values" through Bollywood and soap operas broadcast on Indian television channels in Pakistan.

In 2010, a ban on Indian television channels by the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulation Authority (PEMRA) resulted in mass protests by Pakistan's cable operators, for whom broadcasting Indian content is a major source of revenue.

To be sure, the dissemination of information and option is regulated in democracies all around the world. The U.S., for example, prohibits companies not incorporated in their country from operating television channels.

But does this really impede the flow of news, opinion or even propaganda into the U.S.? The rapid proliferation of Internet connectivity today, both in India and in Pakistan, means that Indians and Pakistanis consume news and opinion from a variety of sources, and most increasingly, from websites and social media networks on the Internet, where governmental regulation is, at best, weak.

By allowing the airing of PTV and other Pakistani private news channels, India will be making a statement about our commitment to the free flow of information and our own confidence in our own positions on terrorism, Jammu and Kashmir and other issues of contention with Pakistan.

Further, permitting Pakistani channels from broadcasting in India will offer Indians a window into Pakistan's crippled and chaotic political system.

No doubt, there are security considerations at play here. But the government of India will always have the option of taking Pakistani channels off-air, should events necessitate it. Yes, venom and demagoguery from the likes of Hafiz Saeed and Zaid Hamid will be unleashed on our TV screens.

But ban or no ban, aren't we already witness to their hate-infused propaganda? Hafiz Saeed and Difa-e-Pakistan's propaganda are already exist online, and Mr. Hamid's fanatical rantings are freely available on You Tube.

The airing of Pakistani content, no matter how false and misleading it may be, cannot possibly erase the images etched in the minds of our citizens of Pakistan-sponsored attacks against the people of Jammu and Kashmir and the rest of India.

In this regard, Pakistani government and private television channels, as well as armchair jihadi warriors are ill equipped to wrest the narrative on terror or J and K from the government of India.

How exactly does one "erase" memories of the bloody carnage at Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus or the Taj? The realities and results of Pakistan's sub-conventional war are there for all of India to see, and cannot be wished away merely through insidious propaganda. (ANI)

Attn: News Editors/News Desks: Rohan Joshi is a Fellow with the Takshashila Institution. The views expressed in the article are the author's own.



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