Pakistan ranked 145 out of 180 countries on Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom Index-2021
ARTICLE 19 has expressed its grave concern over the rise in attacks on journalists and press freedom in Pakistan.
The UK based international human rights organization, which works for freedom of expression and right to information, termed the state of journalism and media in the country "deteriorating."
In a press release issued on Thursday, it said that the Pakistani media, traditionally very lively, had become a priority target for the country’s military intelligence agency over any criticism of the state, creating an environment of intimidation and self-censorship.
The recent sacking of the prominent journalist Hamid Mir, just days after he spoke out against the country’s military at a protest against an attack on another journalist, reinforces these concerns, ARTICLE 19 observed.
“In Pakistan, intimidation and threats are increasingly being used against journalists and media houses. This has resulted in putting many journalists in danger. In 2020, there were several cases reported of enforced disappearances of journalists," said the organization’s Regional Director Faruq Faisel.
He said: "There have been many cases of brazen censorship in which the military has used one or other of its methods for exercising pressure. Free civic space is the bedrock of an open and democratic society. Journalists and the media play an important role in relaying information and helping the masses to engage in public discourse.”
"This is the second incident against a journalist within a week. Last week, independent Pakistani journalist Asad Ali Toor, known for his critical coverage of the country’s government and military, was attacked in his Islamabad home.
"In April 2021 senior journalist Absar Alam was shot in the abdomen while he was out for a walk in Islamabad," he added.
Pakistan ranked 145 out of 180 countries on Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom Index-2021.
While the government denies its involvement in attacks against journalists and censorship, it is difficult to ignore the fact that journalists in Pakistan are at risk and vulnerable to threats, attacks, and harassment, working in a restricted civic space with little to no protection, read the press release.
In May, a member of parliament from the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) introduced a bill that sought to criminalize criticism of the country’s armed forces.
Endorsed by the Interior Ministry, the bill proposes a two-year jail term or about $3,226 in fines or both for those who “intentionally ridicule, bring into disrepute or defame the armed forces of Pakistan or a member thereof.”
ARTICLE 19 has strongly condemned such acts of violence, threats and harassment against journalists in Pakistan.
With rising intolerance and crackdown on dissent, especially when it comes to criticism of Pakistan’s military and intelligence agencies, there is no doubt that Pakistan’s press freedom and media environment are at risk, said ARTICLE 19.
In light of the latest developments, the human rights watchdog strongly urged the Pakistan authorities to protect journalists and uphold the sanctity of independent journalism and press freedom in the country.