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Media Watchdogs Describe Pakistan As 'High-Risk Country'

Pakistani journalists denounce censorship, holding a banner that reads: "stop sacking journalists," in the northwestern city of Peshawar on July 16

A joint report by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and the Pakistani media watchdog Freedom Network has labeled Pakistan as a "high risk country" in terms of media ownership.

The July 18 report says the ownership of more than half of all media in the South Asian nation of 220-million people is concentrated in the hands of only a few.

“This means Pakistan needs more broad-based media ownership to ensure greater diversity in news sources,” said Iqbal Khattak, the RSF representative in Pakistan.

The report follows recent demonstrations by journalists across Pakistan to denounce censorship by the powerful military and security services, layoffs due to budget cuts, and months-long delays in the payment of wages.

The July 16 protests were spearheaded by the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists to call attention to what it described as “unprecedented censorship.”

Last week, RSF criticized a decision by Pakistani authorities to suspend three TV news channels from a cable network after they had broadcast a news conference by an opposition politician.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said last September that the climate for press freedom in Pakistan is deteriorating while the country's army "quietly, but effectively" restricts reporting through "intimidation" and other means.

Reporters Without Borders's World Press Freedom Index has ranked Pakistan 142nd out of 180 countries.