KARACHI: The state of media freedom worsened in the country last year in comparison with the previous two years, according to a report released by the Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors (CPNE) on Monday.

The “Pakistan Media Freedom Report — 2021” was compiled under the supervision of CPNE’s press freedom and monitoring committee. It based its report on first-hand information as well as material obtained from media outlets and websites.

The report expressed concern over increasing attempts to stifle the media and to negate the right of access to information.

Last year alone, the report recalled, five journalists lost their lives in the line of duty, including Nazim Jokhio, a Karachi-based social media activist and community journalist who was abducted and murdered mercilessly.

Nine journalists lost their lives due to the pandemic while two newsmen committed suicide due to unemployment.

“The year 2021 has been an extremely difficult year for journalists, media workers and media organisations in Pakistan in different ways,” the CPNE report observed.

“Freedom of the press and freedom of expression remained under severe pressure and faced a myriad of challenges during the previous year.”

Moreover, the report went on to say, the pandemic not only claimed the lives of several journalists but also plunged media houses into financial difficulties.

Different government institutions, non-governmental organisations and state organisations have persistently tried to “keep the journalist community under pressure through direct and indirect methods”, the report said.

The report recalled the grisly murder of Nazim Jokhio on Nov 3 last year after he shared a video of alleged Arab hunters engaged in illegal hunting on the outskirts of Karachi.

“A number of journalists faced attempts on their lives, lawsuits and telephone calls from unknown numbers,” the report said.

In its attempts to control the media “by hook or by crook”, the government enforced the ‘most controversial’ Pakistan Media Development Authority (PDMA) law, taking several shows and hosts off the air, used its influence to get them expelled from their organisations, and removed a significant number of ‘genuine newspapers’ from the state media list, the CPNE observed.

Meanwhile, PML-N president Shehbaz Sharif has described the media report as yet another charge sheet against the Imran Khan government.

“The Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors (CPNE)’s report is yet another charge sheet against the PTI government. Such reports may affect Pakistan’s GSP Plus status and prospects for foreign investment,” he said in a statement issued in Lahore on Monday.

The opposition leader in the National Assembly said since political parties believed in democracy, they should thrash out a strategy for the future in the light of this report.

“The report is a testimony to ‘fascism of this government’.”

Published in Dawn, February 1st, 2022

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