WASHINGTON: Journalists in Pakistan are targeted by extremist groups, Islamist organisations and the country’s feared intelligence agencies, according to a report released on Wednesday.

But Reporters Without Borders, which formulated the report, also noted that media in Pakistan were “among the freest in Asia” in covering “political squabbles”.

The group, which is better known by its French acronym RSF, ranked Pakistan 147th out of 180 countries in its latest world rankings for press freedom. This is a 12-place gain from the previous year, when Pakistan was ranked 159th.

Pakistan scored 48.52 out of 100 points on the global score for freedom, which is a gain of 1.94 points from the previous year, when Pakistan scored 50.46 points.

RSF also placed militant groups and intelligence agencies who threatened Pakistani journalists on its list of “predators of press freedom”.

The report once again placed India in the bottom third of its freedom index “because of the number of journalists killed and the impunity for crimes of violence against the media”.

RSF puts militant groups, intelligence agencies on its list of ‘predators of press freedom’

RSF pointed out that while militants and government agencies in Pakistan were at war with each other, they were always ready to denounce acts of “sacrilege” by the media.

“Inevitably, self-censorship is widely practised within news organisations. The Pakistani media are nonetheless regarded as among the freest in Asia when it comes to covering the squabbling among politicians,” the report added.

The report warned that under the current government, the situation was worsening in India, which is now ranked 133rd out of 180 countries.

“Violence has emerged as the main brake on media activity (in India) in recent years, especially for reporters in the field and investigative journalists,” the report said.

“Wherever they work, Indian journalists are exposed to growing violence. As well as frequent verbal and physical violence, attacks by armed groups are on the rise in several states and the local authorities have had little success in reining it in.”

The report included frequent lawsuits and draconian legislation on defamation and online publications among other major constraints on media freedom in India.

Published annually by RSF since 2002, the World Press Freedom Index measures the level of freedom available to journalists in 180 countries.

In a summary of its report, RSF noted that journalists around the world continued to work in a “climate of fear and tension combined with increasing control over newsrooms by governments and private-sector interests”.

Europe (with 19.8 points) still has the freest media, followed distantly by Africa (36.9), which for the first time overtook the Americas (37.1), a region where violence against journalists is on the rise. Asia (43.8) and Eastern Europe/Central Asia (48.4) follow, while North Africa/Middle East (50.8) is still the region where journalists are most subjected to constraints of every kind.

Three north European countries head the rankings. Finland ranked first, the position it has held since 2010, Netherlands second and Norway third.

Published in Dawn, April 21st, 2016



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