Suffocating the press

Published December 18, 2021

THE World Press Freedom Index Report 2021 compiled by Reporters Sans Frontières this week paints a dark and foreboding picture of global press freedoms. Two of the four deadliest countries for journalists — India and Afghanistan — are from South Asia. The NGO also said that though the number of journalist killings has gone down somewhat, with 46 dead as compared to the previous year’s 50, the number of journalists being detained “has never been this high since RSF began publishing its annual round-up in 1995”. This points to the menacing environment in which journalists all over the world continue to operate and publish their work. According to the report, 488 journalists and media workers are in prison as of mid-December 2021, which is 20pc more than at the same time last year. The report paints a sorry picture of South Asia, where intimidation of journalists continues unabated. In India in particular, too many activists and journalists who have not toed the Modi government line have been vilified, hounded and punished. In an Afghanistan now under Taliban rule, the threats to mediapersons, particularly women, are amplified.

While the report marks a slight improvement in Pakistan, the reality is that the environment for journalists remains toxic. The proposed Pakistan Media Development Authority bodes ill for the future of press freedom. And the reality of working in the media — where critics are kept off air or hounded and media workers fear for their jobs — is ugly. The report points out that while the Pakistani media has a long tradition of being lively, it has become a key target for the “deep state”, which “exercises a significant degree of control over the civilian executive”. It also notes the influence of the establishment over the media “has increased dramatically since Imran Khan became prime minister in July 2018”. It cites instances of “brazen censorship” through the restricting of newspaper distribution, threats to pull advertising and jamming television signals. “Journalists who dared to broach subjects deemed off limits … have been subjected to harassment campaigns”, the report says, adding that several were abducted last year and warned to stop covering unwelcome stories or they would not be found alive. By all accounts, this is a deadly and suffocating environment for journalists which points to a democracy in name only. Mr Khan and his government must reflect on the legacy they will leave behind for press freedom, and stop treating journalists as the enemy.

Published in Dawn, December 18th, 2021

Opinion

Editorial

A new operation
Updated 25 Jun, 2024

A new operation

Clear deterrent action is needed against terrorist groups, but without upending the lives of people in the affected areas.
Power theft
25 Jun, 2024

Power theft

FEDERAL Energy Minister Awais Leghari’s statement during a TV interview that electricity theft amounts to Rs600bn ...
Fatal air
25 Jun, 2024

Fatal air

TOXIC air can cost us our children. It causes life-threatening illnesses, inflicts lifelong damage and leads to ...
Time for dialogue
Updated 24 Jun, 2024

Time for dialogue

If the PML-N and PTI remain mired in mutual acrimony, an ever-widening gap will continue to allow non-political forces to assert themselves.
Property taxes
24 Jun, 2024

Property taxes

ACCORDING to reports in the local media, along with the higher taxes imposed on real estate in the recent budget, ...
Fierce heat
24 Jun, 2024

Fierce heat

CLIMATE change is unfolding as predicted by experts: savage heat, melting glaciers, extreme rainfall, drought, ...