PESHAWAR: A total of 148 cases of attacks and rights violation against media were reported in the country, including Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, during the last one year showing over 40 per cent increase in their incidence compared to last year, said a media watchdog.

According to the Pakistan Press Freedom, 2021, Report, released by the Freedom Network ahead of the May 3 Press Freedom Day, a dramatic escalation in the climate of intimidation and harassment of media and its practitioners adversely affecting freedom of expression and access to information environment was discovered during the year between May 2020 and April 2021.

“The increase in attacks on media and its practitioners in Pakistan points to a collective failure of the government and state to honour commitment of upholding the people’s right to speak in fear-free environment,” said Freedom Network executive director Iqbal Khattak in a news release here.

He said the record registration of 27 legal cases against journalists proved the biggest threat to journalists during the reporting period as the threat actors moved to adopt sophistication in silencing dissenting voices.

“Laws should protect journalists instead of silencing them,” he said.

Report says Islamabad most dangerous place for journalists

The Freedom Network ED said the report was dedicated to the late IA Rehman, who championed the cause of freedom of expression and journalists’ safety in the country.

He said Islamabad emerged as the riskiest and most dangerous place for journalists in the period under review with recording 34 per cent of the countrywide rights violations (51 of the total 148 cases).

According to the report, no place in all four provinces or federal capital Islamabad is safe for journalists as attacks against media are taking place everywhere with the state and its functionaries being the principal threat actor.

On average, 12 cases of rights violations – one every third day, took place in the country. The violations included the killing of six journalists for professional work and seven failed assassination bids, five kidnappings, 25 arrests or detentions, 15 assaults, and 27 legal cases.

The report said that the top three categories of violations included 27 legal cases filed against them (18 per cent), 26 verbal threats of murder or other dire consequences (17 per cent), and at least 25 cases of arrests or detentions of journalists by law enforcement agencies (16 per cent).

The three categories of violations – legal cases, threats and detentions – constituted over 60 per cent of the 148 categories of violations of rights against media in the country during the period in question.

The report said after Islamabad, Sindh was the second most dangerous region in the country for journalists for recording 26 per cent of the rights violations (38 cases) followed by Punjab with 20 per cent (29 cases), Khyber Pakhtunkhwa nine per cent (13 cases) and Azad Jammu and Kashmir six per cent (nine cases) and Balochistan five per cent (eight cases).

It added that no violation of media rights was reported in Gilgit-Baltistan.

Published in Dawn, April 30th, 2021

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