We have recently learnt about the ban on Balochistan’s first online English newspaper, The Baloch Hal, by the military establishment of Pakistan. Our dear friend, Malik Siraj Akbar, is the Editor-in-Chief of this excellent online newspaper.
The Baloch Hal in my view is a credible Baloch nationalist website, which highlights issues of identity and rights of the Baloch people. It is a progressive English language online newspaper which staunchly champions the cause of objective and investigative journalism.
With a special focus on Balochistan, the Baloch Hal has become Balochistan’s most quoted newspaper. Leading South Asian newspapers like Dawn, Daily Times, The Hindu, the National and Himal South Asian and radio stations like BBC, Dutch Welle and Voice of America have quoted the newspaper and interviewed its editor on the geopolitical issues.
The Editor in Chief of the Baloch Hall wrote the following note to the LUBP:
On November 8, Dawn News, a leading Pakistani television channel, reported that the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) had suddenly decided to block the newspaper for allegedly carrying some “anti-Pakistan” material. While refuting the charges, we see this as a mere excuse by the Pakistani authorities to muzzle the independent media.
As the editor-in-chief of the newspaper, I am currently a Hubert Humphrey Fellow, a program sponsored by the US Department of State. In addition, I am a member of Society for Professional Journalists (SPJ) and South Asian Journalists Association (SAJA).
Throughout my professional career, I have always adhered to objective and balanced journalism. We have always provided sufficient coverage to the government and space to the opposition parties. Therefore, we believe the government has blocked our website in Pakistan to persuade The Baloch Hal to give up its editorial policy.
In the recent past, the security establishment in Pakistan shut down a couple of other newspapers in Balochistan, besieged the offices of others, abducted journalists and put them into torture cells. Even though the government expressed displeasure over our editorials, we, in return, provided adequate space to the official spokesman to present their version as we fully believe in the freedom of speech. However, this time the government did not take a democratic approach to convey its grievances and blocked our newspaper by leveling baseless charges.
Thus, I would like to request you to kindly take notice of the government’s undemocratic attitude towards a liberal and progressive newspaper. In addition, we would appeal to you to urge the government via your writings to withdraw its decision which is intended to restrict the freedom of speech.
We want to assure Malik Siraj Akbar and other editors, authors and well wishers of the Baloch Hal, that the LUBP team stands by you in this hour of need. We will keep monitoring and reporting the situation to the wider blogging and internet community.
We demand the Chief of Army Staff General Kayani and the Chief of the ISI General Pasha to lift this undemocratic ban on the Baloch Hall.
We are not directing our demand to the puppet CM of Balochistan Nawab Raisani and the puppet President Asif Zardari because we know the limitations of their ‘authority’.
We also request the civil society, in particular our fellow bloggers from all political or ideological inclinations, to extend their full support to the Baloch Hal.