Sunday, November 18, 2007


Short observation. I travelled today from Islamabad in Pakistan to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.

A weird experience.

Because in Pakistan, a terrible political crisis because president Musharraf has declared emergency rule. Demonstrations of lawyers, students and journalists. Anger about the media-blackout. American diplomats harshly criticizing president Musharraf for blocking TV stations. And one of the opposition leaders, Benazir Bhutto, creating drama after drama in front of the word's cameras. Well, I'm a journalist, so I naturally support demonstrating journalists.

But to call the current situation in Pakistan a full media blackout is utterly silly, to say the least. Yes, a couple of television stations have been taken off air, but many TV stations are back on (also the critical ones) and the print media have never been blocked or censored at all since the introduction of emergency rule.

Compare that to Dubai, where I'm now. All business as usual - happy money hungry people. Indians, Pakistanis, Arabs, Americans, Europeans. No protesting journalists here (the media is totally censored, basically no criticism has ever been allowed ). TV channels stuffed with action movies, papers full of 'man rescues cat'-stories. Yep, great place.

So here no demonstrating journalists, no screaming opposition leader (there is no opposition in Dubai) and no angry American or European diplomats (the diplomats here are way too busy playing golf..).

Of course, Pakistani democracy might be in danger. But with a literacy rate of only 37 percent, 74 percent of the population making only 1.5 euro a day and 42 religiously inspired suicide bombers killing hundreds of innocent people this year, Pakistan might have bigger problems on its hands than a couple of TV stations going black.

Emergency is, indeed, terrible for the 25.000 or so Haves in Pakistan, but most of the remaining 159.975.000 Have Not's would choose a humane life over voting once every four years in a democracy that has never functioned and never delivered.

Harald Doornbos


Ingmar said...

good point, but when you have notthing to loos it's a bit easyer to stand your ground than when you are used to play golf every day (offcourse not all people in Dubai can afford to play golf everyday, but you get the point...).

m.p. said...

well, i think it's not that much about what stand people take in those countries, but about the standards by which the rest of the world judges what is going on.

whether to criticise the lack of democracy or not. and if, why, where and when.

harry points at our hypocrisy. not at all a moot point.