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Curbs on media

Three reports compiled by the Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF) in connection with the ‘International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists’, portray a rather dismal picture of press freedom in Pakistan.

It was revealed in the reports that freedom of information is shrinking and its violations are on the rise. Incidents of oppression against media persons have been reported for expressing views against certain individuals and powerful institutions.

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Media pluralism and independence, respect for the safety and freedom of journalists and the legislative, institutional and infrastructural environment in which the media operates are some of the yardsticks that define the extent of media freedom in country. However, in our country these norms are violated almost on a daily basis. As reported by the PPF, at least 27 incidents where media personnel were physically assaulted in connection with their work, including both armed attacks and beating of journalists, were recorded. However, in a positive development, on June 28, the Sindh Assembly passed the landmark ‘Sindh Protection of Journalists and Other Media Practitioners Bill 2021’. Another bill was presented in the National Assembly but it has yet to be passed.

With an increase in the potential and role of media, the pressure is also increasing on the fourth estate. Media freedom is critically necessary for a democratic and progressive society. It acts as a public watchdog and provides an impetus to positive changes in society. Though curbs on media are increasing, yet it must not retreat. Media should continue to play its due role in society. It should keep the right of people to information intact at all costs. At the same time, media also needs to act sensibly and should not adopt biased attitudes. Strict adherence to rules and media ethics must be upheld in line with democratic norms. In Pakistan, media has got its freedom after almost 40 years of a struggle against draconian laws. But media freedom is still in its infancy in Pakistan and needs to be exercised prudently.

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