A Pakistani watchdog says a “dramatic escalation” in the intimidation and harassment of the media in the South Asian country over the past year is “squeezing the space” of freedom of expression and limiting access to information.
In its annual report on the state of Pakistan’s press freedom issued on April 30, Freedom Network recorded 148 cases of “attacks and violations” against outlets, journalists, and other media workers between May 2020 and April 2021 -- an increase of more than 40 percent compared to the previous.
These cases included the killing of six journalists due to their journalistic work, seven assassination attempts, five kidnappings, 25 arrests or detentions, 15 physical assaults, and 27 legal cases registered against media workers.
“The increase in attacks on media and its practioners in Pakistan points to a collective failure of the government and the state of Pakistan to honor its commitment to uphold peoples’ right to speak without fear,” Freedom Network Executive Director Iqbal Khattak said in a statement.
Noting that a record number of legal cases were filed against journalists during the period under review -- 27 -- Khattak said Pakistani laws must protect journalists instead of being used to “silence” them.
The state and civil servants have “shockingly” emerged as “the principal threat actor wielding the biggest stick to browbeat the media into submission and growing silence,” according to the report.
Attacks against journalists are taking place across Pakistan, but the federal capital, Islamabad, emerged as the “riskiest and most dangerous” place for journalists with 34 percent of the recorded violations -- 51 out of total 148 cases.
The report comes ahead of World Press Freedom Day on May 3.