Freedom of Expression in Pakistan Continues to Face Challenges | Pakistan News Digest

Freedom of Expression in Pakistan Continues to Face Challenges

Freedom of expression in Pakistan has continued to face challenges in the past year, says a report published by Freedom Network, a Pakistani media watchdog organization.

The report, Press Freedom Barometer 2018, published ahead of Thursday's observance of World Press Freedom Day, documents more than 150 violations against journalists and media groups in the country.

The 16-page report's violations include officially enforced censorship, written or verbal threats, killings, harassment, arrests, abductions, illegal confinements and physical assaults, conducted by state and nonstate actors and political and religious parties.

"At least 157 cases of attacks and violations were documented in Pakistan between May 1, 2017, and April 1, 2018, across all four provinces, Islamabad and tribal areas. That's an average of about 15 cases of violations a month," the report noted.

The executive director of Freedom Network, Iqbal Khattak, told VOA that despite a noticeable decline in overall terrorism in the country, journalism and journalists have remained vulnerable.

"There had been a significant decline in terrorism within the country, and we thought it will have a positive impact on journalism as well. But unfortunately that's not the case, and the situation of press freedom has deteriorated in Pakistan," Khattak told VOA.

There has been no response from the government.

Longtime, widespread problem

The report was compiled after collecting registered data across the country. It marked Islamabad as the "riskiest and most dangerous" city in which to practice journalism in Pakistan, with 35 percent of all cases (55 out of 157) reported in the capital during the past year.

Punjab province ranked second with 17 percent of the cases, Sindh with 16 percent and Baluchistan with 14 percent. Ten percent of the violations were noted in the restive Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Additionally, a semiautonomous tribal region bordering Afghanistan had 8 percent of the total registered cases.

Five journalists from different cities of Pakistan died in the line of duty, and 20 attacks were registered on media organizations last year. The report indicated TV journalists were more vulnerable than journalists belonging to other media such as print, social media or radio.

"This is the responsibility of the state and media houses to ensure the safety of journalists and that their rights are fully respected. Those who go out in the field to dig stories and bring facts to the nation should not be killed in the line of duty," said Rasul Baksh Raees, a political analyst from Pakistan.

Raees and others say the threat to journalists is nothing new, because they have always paid a price in Pakistan.

Independence jeopardized

Some experts believe the continued oppression against freedom of speech and expression has forced many media companies and journalists to self-censor.

"Journalists in Pakistan have surrendered to the continued oppression and have implemented self-censorship. They avoid reporting news and facts that may result in violence. This will have a serious and grave impact on investigative journalism in the country," Khattak said.

Mehdi Hasan, a Lahore-based media historian and current chairman of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, echoed those concerns.

"Many newspapers and news channels are practicing self-censorship. That is a plague for freedom of expression and deprives people of their right to information," Hasan told VOA. He added that in its 70-year history, journalism in Pakistan has always faced pressure from state and nonstate circles

"This is the responsibility of the state and media houses to ensure the safety of journalists and that their rights are fully respected. Those who go out in the field to dig stories and bring facts to the nation should not be killed in the line of duty," said Rasul Baksh Raees, a political analyst from Pakistan.

Raees and others say the threat to journalists is nothing new, because they have always paid a price in Pakistan.

Independence jeopardized

Some experts believe the continued oppression against freedom of speech and expression has forced many media companies and journalists to self-censor.

"Journalists in Pakistan have surrendered to the continued oppression and have implemented self-censorship. They avoid reporting news and facts that may result in violence. This will have a serious and grave impact on investigative journalism in the country," Khattak said.

Mehdi Hasan, a Lahore-based media historian and current chairman of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, echoed those concerns.

"Many newspapers and news channels are practicing self-censorship. That is a plague for freedom of expression and deprives people of their right to information," Hasan told VOA. He added that in its 70-year history, journalism in Pakistan has always faced pressure from state and nonstate circles

Source: Voice of America

   

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