To Fix Its ‘Republic’ Problem, Shiv Sena-Led Maharashtra Government Takes A Page From Pakistan Army’s Playbook 

by Swarajya Staff - Sep 11, 2020 01:08 PM +05:30 IST
To Fix Its ‘Republic’ Problem, Shiv Sena-Led Maharashtra Government Takes A Page From Pakistan Army’s Playbook Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and Pakistan Army Chief Qamar Javed Bajwa.  
  • Maharashtra government’s latest move, observers pointed out, mirrors what the Pakistan Army has done in the past to silence critics in the media.

The Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena-Nationalist Congress Party-Congress government in Maharashtra and journalist Arnab Goswami’s Republic TV have been at loggerheads for months now over a variety of issues.

These range from the lynching of two Hindu sadhus in Palghar to the Sushant Singh Rajput case, and the Maharashtra Police’s lackadaisical approach towards these due to alleged political motivations.

Thackeray-led government’s vindictive response to criticism by actress Kangana Ranaut — Sena-led Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation demolished a part of her office — is only the latest issue on which the two have crossed swords.

As Republic TV raised questions on the state’s heavy-handed response to criticism, the Sena-led government responded by arresting two journalists with Republic Media Network for allegedly trespassing on Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray’s farmhouse at Khalapur in Raigad district.

Earlier, Goswami had accused the Shiv Sena of sending its goons to attack him while he was on his way back home from Republic TV studio in Mumbai.

The Shiv Sena has also recently moved two breach of privilege motions against Goswami charging him of maligning the image of Chief Minister Thackeray and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar.

And now, reports say, an organisation named 'Shiv Cable Sena' has written to various cable television operators in Maharashtra asking them to stop broadcasting channels run by Republic Media Netowork, such as Republic TV and Republic Bharat.

The letter which states that operators must stop broadcasting these channels or be willing to face protests is reportedly signed by senior Shiv Sena party leader Sanjay Raut's brother Sunil Raut, various reports say.

Maharashtra government’s latest move, observers pointed out, mirrors what the Pakistan Army has done in the past to silence critics in the media.

On multiple occasions, the Pakistan Army, which controls all levers of power of the Pakistani state, has ordered cable operators in the country to take channels criticising the security establishment or Prime Minister Imran Khan off air.

In 2018, when the security establishment in Pakistan was under pressure due to political and economic upheaval in the country, it had forced cable operators to take off air news channel Geo TV, Pakistan's largest TV station.

This order was soon extended to other channels of the Geo Network to impose an economic cost on the owners in order to deter criticism.

“We are off the air in 80 percent of the country,” Mir Ibrahim Rahman, the chief executive of the network, had said back then.

These steps were taken when Geo TV gave air time to commentators who were critical of the country’s security establishment after Pakistan was placed on the terror financing watch list by the Financial Action Task Force.

In July 2019, three news channels in Pakistan — AbbTakk TV, 24 News and Capital TV — were taken off air by cable operators for weeks on the orders of the country’s military for covering a press conference held by former Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's daughter Maryam Nawaz.

Pakistan Army’s crackdown on media has not been limited to television news channels. Recently, it also disrupted the circulation of the country’s oldest newspaper, Dawn. The military establishment blocked its sales in many cities after Dawn carried former Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s comments suggesting that Pakistani terrorists were behind the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

Pakistan’s military and intelligence establishment has also resorted to intimidation and kidnapping to silence critics in the media. In July this year, Matiullah Jan, a prominent Pakistani journalist was kidnapped by heavily armed men in Islamabad’s most secure area just days after he criticized the military.

In 2018, Pakistan journalist Taha Siddiqui, who was then the Bureau Chief of WION News in the country, was targeted by the military. Siddiqui was threatened and beaten and had to flee the country after he escaped abduction.

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