KARACHI: The International Press Institute (IPI) — a global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in over 100 countries — has urged Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan to ensure that the deteriorating environment for independent press in Pakistan is reversed, and that the press is protected from the onslaught of state institutions.

The IPI, in a letter addressed to the PTI chief, congratulated Mr Khan and his party on success in the recent elections.

“While the citizens of Pakistan are looking forward to a change in the governance of the country and hope that it will be free of corruption and coercion, the IPI network expects that you will restore media freedom and create an environment where journalists and media organisations are able to function without fear,” said the letter.

The global network expressed concern over the “highhanded use of coercive measures to curtail the independence of the press in Pakistan”.

Elaborating on these coercive measures, the IPI wrote that dissenting journalists had to face physical intimidation, abduction and torture; independent newspapers were denied access to readers through the widespread disruption of distribution; and independent channel broadcasts were denied access to television audiences.

Just before the election a woman journalist, Gul Bokhari — from the Nawai Waqt/ Nation Group — was abducted for several hours, late at night, while on her way to work, the global network pointed out.

The same night, another broadcast journalist, Asad Kharal, was physically assaulted in Lahore, it stated, adding that numerous newspaper editors had been forced to drop dissenting columns from newspapers, leading some columnists to post their uncensored columns on social media platforms.

“Equally disturbing had been the nationwide use of intimidation against

distributors of newspapers. Groups of officials continue to physically stop newspaper distribution vans and agents from delivering targeted national dailies such as Dawn, Jang and The News,” the IPI regretted.

Identical tactics were being deployed against cable operators affiliated to the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority, with respect to news channels such as Geo and Dawn News — which were being regularly blocked from reaching audiences, it added.

“You are well aware that such a climate is inimical to both democracy and the free flow of information necessary for a strong and corruption-free democracy that you have promised to usher in to create a new Pakistan,” emphasised the letter.

It called upon Mr Khan to do everything possible to reverse the repressive state of media.

“Unless rigorous measures are taken to halt further attempts to influence reporting in the media, and to ensure that newspapers are allowed to publish freely, and television channels are allowed to broadcast in Pakistan without any further harassment, it will be hard to establish a vibrant democracy,” the network observed.

Published in Dawn, August 15th, 2018

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