Pakistan’s nascent digital media industry contributes millions of rupees to the national economy in the weeks leading up to the Eidul Azha festival. Since the past two years, however, the management of what is believed to be Asia’s biggest market of sacrificial animals situated in Karachi’s Sohrab Goth suburb is creating troubles for digital content creators.
The Government of Sindh, on the other hand, seems to be doing nothing about it. The market that runs under the administrative control of the Cantonment Board Malir (CBM) and stretches over some 960 acres has, to all intents and purposes, forbidden digital content creators from going live from the market or showing anything that might put them in a bad light.
Last year digital content creators were asked to sign an agreement binding them to report on only the positive side of the market and thereby overlook any and all violations of the standard operating procedures devised in view of the Covid-19 pandemic. This year they have apparently been completely banned from going live from the market.
This is the third consecutive year that the CBM has contracted Insight Solutions for media handling. The company has created its own Facebook page and Twitter account by the name of Maweshi Mandi, and it goes live and posts videos promoting the sacrificial animal market on a daily basis.
During one of their Facebook Live sessions, this correspondent asked why other content creators are not allowed to go live from the market. The person who was doing the live session and who goes by the name Sherry replied that they run the official page of the market and it is only their right to go live.
“They [the content creators] should record [and not go live],” he stressed. “They show Ulti Seedhi [wrong] things during live sessions, which is not a good practice.”
He said the live sessions from the cattle market can only be seen from their official page. When asked under what law they are restricting live sessions from content creators, he replied that there is no point debating this, and that the correspondent should approach their media cell at the market.
The next day, during another live session by Sherry on their page, this
correspondent pointed out that a few content creators had gone live from the market despite the restriction. Sherry replied that they would impose a ban on whoever goes live from the market. “That person won’t be able to enter the market,” he warned.
The News tried to find out how content creators earn during Eidul Azha. Since everything is going digital, even the buying, selling and marketing of sacrificial animals has gone digital.
Big cattle farm owners who buy VIP space worth millions of rupees inside the makeshift animal market from the CBM before Eid, invite bloggers and other digital content creators to visit their tents at the market, make videos and post them on their respective digital platforms, and go live.
“This is all part of our contract, and we charge them,” said a content creator who has been covering the makeshift cattle market since 2014. “Now our entry inside the market is questionable.”
He explained how he purchases an entry pass costing thousands of rupees from the market administration, tours the market and covers its various aspects. “My audience is in millions. They’re crazy about the animal market. If I don’t go live, I’ll end up losing my audience, which I’ve gathered with hard work over the past six years.”
Just last week, he said, he got a contract from a few fancy cow owners to make videos and go live from their VIP tent. “I have taken money from them and I was supposed to go live from their tent every day, but now the market administration isn’t allowing me. Instead, they’re going live from their page and stealing my audience. This is sheer injustice.”
A Facebook page by the name of Cattle Craze was live from the market on Sunday night, and eight minutes into the session, someone interrupted them and asked them to end it.
When this correspondent contacted the number mentioned on their page, one of their reporters said their Facebook Live session was stopped forcibly and they were escorted to the media cell, where they were told they were not allowed to go live under any circumstances. “Not even after registration.”
He stressed that their motive is not to show anything against the animal market, but to retain their audience and depict the energy inside the market.
One of the spokespersons of the animal market, Zaki Abro, told The News that anyone who has a mobile phone becomes a reporter and there is nobody to control them. “Once they get registered, they are allowed to report from the market.”
Insight Solutions CEO Yawar Chawla, who is also a market spokesperson, acknowledged that Insight Solutions owns the official page of the animal market. He claimed that there is no ban on going live from the makeshift animal market.
He stressed that the only condition is getting registered with them. “The more of them go live the better for us,” he said. This is, however, contrary to what Sherry had said from their
official Facebook page.
The constitution’s Article 19 (Freedom of speech, etc.) reads: “Every citizen shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression, and there shall be freedom of the press, subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interest of the glory of Islam or the integrity, security or defence of Pakistan or any part thereof, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality, or in relation to contempt of court, [commission of] or incitement to an offence.”
Last year, speaking on the same issue, Digital Rights Foundation Executive Director Advocate Nighat Dad had said that there is no law specifically formulated to regulate bloggers or vloggers.
Explaining the legalities of the matter, she had said the protections that the country’s constitution and other laws afford the people cover bloggers and vloggers as well.
“Prohibiting bloggers from making live videos and from covering anything that might be perceived as negative by the management is a double wrong: it violates the right of free speech of the blogger and the right of information of the hearer.”