=> * Report says laws authorise govt to curb freedom
* Report says laws authorise govt to curb freedom of speech
* Claims govt making threats, derogatory comments against journalists
WASHINGTON: Although the already outspoken Pakistani media have grown more diverse, they continue to face a range of pressures and harassment from both the government and other sources, according to the annual state of freedom around the world report issued by Freedom House this week.
Legal curbs: The report notes that the constitution and other laws authorise the government to curb freedom of speech on subjects including the constitution, the armed forces, the judiciary, and religion, and harsh blasphemy laws have also been used in past years to suppress the media.
Threats and derogatory comments: “On several occasions, General Pervez Musharraf and other members of his administration contributed to an atmosphere inimical to free speech by making public threats against or derogatory comments about specific members of the press. Over the past several years, military authorities have used increasingly aggressive tactics to silence critical or investigative voices in the media. A number of journalists have been pressured to resign from prominent publications, charged with sedition, or arrested and intimidated by intelligence officials while in custody, while media outlets have been shut down.
On numerous occasions, police, security forces, and military intelligence subjected journalists to physical attacks, intimidation, or arbitrary arrest and incommunicado detention. Attacks occurred even on journalists who had gathered to march in support of media freedom on World Press Freedom Day in May,” says the report.
The report points out that while some journalists practise self-censorship, many privately owned daily and weekly newspapers and magazines provide diverse and critical coverage of national affairs. Nevertheless, authorities wield some control over content by reportedly providing unofficial “guidance” to newspaper editors on suggested placement of front-page stories or permissible topics of coverage. Most locally-based electronic media, it notes, are state owned and follow the government line, and private radio stations are prohibited from broadcasting news programming.
However, a growing number of new private cable or satellite television channels and radio channels, all of which broadcast from outside the country, provide live news coverage and a much wider variety of viewpoints than was previously available. Authorities wield some economic influence over the media through the selective allocation of advertising, and both official and private interests reportedly pay for favourable press coverage.
“The website of an online newspaper established abroad by exiled editor Shaheen Sehbai was also blocked sporadically by Pakistani telecommunications authorities,” according to Freedom House.
Source: Daily Times