We know that the security situation today is risky, and the government has made it difficult for us to find out just how bad it is. The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) prohibited all satellite TV channels from live coverage of the operation. After the Pemra notification was issued, news channels went off air in various parts of the country, along with Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Instagram. The Pemra notification ordered channels to abide by Clause 8 (8) of the Electronic Media (Programmes and Advertisement) Code of Conduct 2015, to show “utmost sensitivity” and refrain from coverage of the operation.

It is true that there was indeed some irresponsible reporting from channels that covered the Faizabad operation as they would a live cricket match; and that this insensitive reporting did lead to further backlash and chaos. However, the government has not distinguished between responsible and deviant reporting; putting a blanket ban on all channels and social for security purposes is a dark reminder of Musharraf’s policies.

Curbing crucial information often does more damage than the intended effect of security. It adds to the air of panic, and mystery, causing confusion and misinformation. Citizens should have adequate knowledge to judge whether it is safe for them to step outside their homes; and if they don’t get the information from credible news channels, they will seek it from other sinister and unreliable sources.

Media freedoms are not for the government to take away — or give. Bad news must be covered, and it can’t be wished away by jamming the airwaves. A civilian government should wish to distinguish itself by awarding more freedoms, not by wrenching away essential ones, as the PMLN government did yesterday.