Press Freedom in Pakistan Faces Serious Threats, Reports RSF

by Antariksh Singh

Reporters Without Borders (RSF), a global watchdog for press freedom, has called on Pakistan’s federal and provincial authorities to urgently address what it describes as “an alarming deterioration in press freedom” over recent months, according to a report by Pakistan-based newspaper Dawn.

In a detailed statement, RSF highlighted a series of troubling incidents that have occurred since the new federal and provincial governments took office in March, following elections in February. “Murders of journalists, enforced disappearances, arbitrary detentions, censorship, and social media blocking all point to a very disturbing decline in press freedom in the first three months of the new government,” RSF said.

Celia Mercier, the head of RSF’s South Asia desk, criticized the numerous violations against press freedom, suggesting a stark contrast between the current climate of repression and the promises made by political parties during their election campaigns. “The many press freedom violations reveal a climate of violence and a determination to censor that has little in common with the undertakings given by the political parties in their elections campaign manifestos, and the message of support for journalists by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif,” Mercier stated.

RSF’s statement also recounted specific examples of the impunity that reigns in Pakistan, such as the murders of journalist Nasrullah Gadani in Sindh and YouTuber Kamran Dawar in North Waziristan. Additionally, it mentioned the alleged abduction of Kashmir poet Ali Ahmed Farhad Shah, the arbitrary detention of several journalists, and the closure of the Quetta Press Club.

The watchdog underscored new “censorship measures” that have been introduced, including the establishment of a National Cyber Crimes Investigation Agency (NCCIA) to monitor online content, the promulgation of the controversial Punjab Defamation Act, a ban by the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) on court reporting, and the ongoing blocking of social media platform X.

Mercier further noted that the strategy of silencing critical voices is becoming increasingly evident. She emphasized that Pakistan remains one of the most dangerous countries in the world for media professionals, with a particularly appalling level of impunity for the murders of journalists.

In a related development, the Journalists Committee to Protect Journalists (CJP) recently called on Pakistani authorities to “swiftly and impartially investigate the death threats and online harassment against senior journalists in the country.” This includes the case of Hamid Mir, an anchorperson for Geo News, who has faced numerous death threats for his comments supporting free speech.

Mir, who hosts the show “Capital Talk,” reported to CJP that he had received multiple threats on social media, warning that his life was in danger. Despite reporting these threats to the police in Islamabad, no first information report (FIR) has been registered, and no investigation has commenced. Mir also disclosed that he had observed two individuals filming him near his home, who fled when he approached them.

As RSF and CJP continue to press for action, the international community remains watchful of the escalating threats to press freedom in Pakistan.

Antariksh Singh

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