Freedom for the media | Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Pakistan Press Foundation

Freedom for the media

Pakistan Press Foundation

Pakistan ranks 150 out of 180 countries in the 2023 Reporters Without Borders (RSF) Press Freedom Index. Even though the country moved up seven places compared to the previous year, that doesn’t say much given that the space for media freedom in Pakistan keeps shrinking gradually and ‘red lines’ keep changing every other day. Given the perennial struggle of Pakistan’s journalists to do their job without hindrance, media organizations in Pakistan have launched an appeal to the key mainstream and regional political parties involved in the upcoming election campaigns to commit to concrete measures in favour of press freedom. In a joint letter authored by journalist bodies and organizations such as press clubs, PFUJ, other regional journalist unions, the Digital Media Alliance of Pakistan (DigiMAP), Pakistan Journalists Safety Coalition (PJSC)-federal chapter, Association of Electronic Media Editors and News Directors (AEMEND), Freedom Network, and Reporters Without Borders, it has been highlighted that in the run-up to the elections, the onus is on political parties to ensure that journalists can work with freedom and independence – the fundamental guarantees of a functioning democracy. Political parties have rightly been asked to make a concrete commitment to these proposals, “starting with the search for legislative guarantees for the protection of journalists and the fight against impunity for crimes of violence against them”.

In a democratic country, it is the duty of all political parties, parliament and institutions to ensure that journalists are able to do their work independently and without any fear of reprisal from state or non-state actors. In Pakistan, journalists face a myriad of challenges – some of them ironically from the state itself. As aspirants to public office, our politicians should ideally be our first line of defence when it comes to journalistic freedom. Over the years, the threat to journalists has not been restricted to less-privileged areas or the peripheral regions of the country, with known and big-name journalists also facing threats and physical acts of violence in more mainstream cities of the country.

Pakistan’s journalists have never really had it easy – whether in democracies, real or hybrid, or in dictatorships – but the past decade or so has seen even more insidious ways of targeting media professionals in the country. The inevitable result has been a journalism that is fractured by self-censorship, fear, polarization, and consistent online trolling and targeted campaigns discrediting journalists and media organizations. With laws like PECA weaponized against the media, even civilian governments have supported legislative curbs on journalism, human rights defenders, political rivals and dissidents alike. It is important that our political parties realize how these draconian laws will eventually also be used against them and their own workers. To claim that they support democracy and democratic principles and then pass such laws is akin to murdering democracy and freedom of speech, expression, and the press. Yesterday was the International Day for Universal Access to Information but laws like PECA are a grave reminder that access to information and media freedoms are at stake in Pakistan. We hope that all of the country’s political parties stand with media freedom in principle and not just pay lip service like they usually do, understanding that when they are in trouble it is the journalist who speaks for them.


Source: The News

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