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Tuesday, May 17, 2022
EditorialPakistan and World Press Freedom Day

Pakistan and World Press Freedom Day

The Press Freedom Day was marked on May 3 all over the world, including Pakistan. The day pushes the stakeholders to take stocks of the affairs related to press freedom all over the world. When look closely, it emerges the Press Freedom Day in Pakistan leaves several questions for the government and media practitioners. In recent years, media houses and some selected journalists faced unprecedented restrictions both by the previous government of the PTI and its followers on social media. The curbs on the media have been noticed by the international community as well, and in this regard, a statement by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken merits mentioning here. He said said that “the US government is aware of the curbs on media outlets and civil society in Pakistan and such restrictions on freedom of speech undermine the country’s image and ability to progress”. The statement was not issued as a separate matter but it was given in response to a question from a Pakistani journalist during a press briefing on World Press Freedom Day. Though the question was very loaded, and had lots of anti-Pakistan content, the US official was responsive to the accusations put forwarded in the question.

The question was: “Pakistan remains among those countries in the world considered the most dangerous place for journalists. Last year, many journalists were killed, kidnapped, and tortured for exposing crime and corruption and criticising some of the government policies. Has the State Department ever taken up this issue in bilateral talks with Pakistani authorities?”

Regardless of what the question was and how it was addressed, data speaks volumes about the situation of press freedom in Pakistan. According to the World Press Freedom Index, Pakistan fell 12 points on the press freedom score in one year and now ranks even below the Taliban-led Afghanistan. The day assembles Pakistani journalists for gaining space for the freedom of press and expression. In this regard, the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists has demanded the government protect freedom of speech and expression as no government can succeed in its goals without the constitutional rights of the freedom of press and expression. The journalists body chided the previous government for introducing draconian laws in the shape of Pakistan Media Develop­ment Authority (PMDA) and amendment to the Prevention of Electronic Crime Act (PECA) which could have imposed “martial law on media.” Not only this, the previous government brought “concocted and fabricated cases” against journalists, besides resorting to “abduction and attempts to kill media professionals”. The incumbent government should introduce remedial measures to make up the losses the media houses and journalists suffered at the hand of the government policies.

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