Satire offers new ground for silenced Pakistani journalists

Vastavam web: An army boot and a sandal discuss what to do with fallen former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in a satirical social media video that highlights the way journalists shut out from the country’s mainstream media are turning to the Internet. The 70-second video, which has been seen more than 58,000 times, is the latest product of Matitullah Jan, a former television anchor at local Waqt TV, who says he was forced out of his job by Pakistan’s powerful military due to his criticism of the generals’ interference in politics shortly before the station closed last year.

Like media organizations the world over, Pakistani newspapers and television stations are feeling the squeeze from social media companies such as Facebook that are eating into their advertising revenues. But some journalists also say Khan’s government and the military establishment that looms over Pakistani politics have deliberately sought to push out critical voices, forcing them to seek alternative outlets by squeezing media companies financially and through burdensome new regulations.

Pakistan’s military regularly denies undermining press freedom. Its media wing declined to comment in response to written questions submitted by Reuters. A government spokesman said job losses and declining business for some media was due to digital competition, not official pressure. If they are no longer seen on television, however, at least some of those laid off have been able to find alternative outlets, in Jan’s case a YouTube channel and a satirical social media video series called “Funny Gala” – a play on Bani Gala, the Islamabad suburb where Khan has a palatial hilltop home.

“It might be your decision, we don’t mind,” says the boot, as the two discuss exiling Khan’s predecessor Nawaz Sharif, who fell out with the military and is currently serving a 10-year jail sentence for corruption.When the sandal voices fears that their joint efforts might go in vain, the boot laughs: “You might lose, we will never.”