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Media Bodies Raise Alarm Over Shrinking Media Freedom in Pakistan

By News   Desk

As the world observed World Press Freedom Day, media bodies in Pakistan expressed grave concerns over the deteriorating state of free media in the country, with a particular focus on restrictions imposed on mainstream and social media during election periods, Pakistan's Dawn newspaper reported.

The Association of Electronic Media Editors and News Directors (AEMEND) vowed to continue its constitutional and legal struggle for freedom of expression in Pakistan, despite facing unfavorable circumstances.

In a statement, AEMEND said journalists and media outlets in the country face severe challenges, with state and non-state actors placing restrictions on television programs, shutting down broadcasts, pressuring for the termination of journalists, and making illegal demands.

"Such tactics are increasing by the day," AEMEND said, adding that character assassination of journalists, especially women, is part of this malicious campaign, often involving political party workers.

The association stressed that these tactics aim to suppress journalists and restrict freedom of expression. It further highlighted illegal restrictions on social media, sending notices to journalists and institutions, shutting down mobile phone and internet services on important occasions, and restricting coverage of political and non-political activities as actions depriving people of their right to information, which goes against the spirit of democratic societies.

In its South Asia Press Freedom Report, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) stated that four journalists were murdered in Pakistan, and women journalists faced harassment both online and offline.

Meanwhile, the Freedom Network, in its annual Pakistan Freedom of Expression and Media Report 2024, highlighted socio-political, legal, and media industry-related factors affecting freedom of expression by the people and media in the country.

On May 3, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) called on the government to ensure fair treatment and protection for journalists, demanding mechanisms to protect against attacks, hold perpetrators accountable for illegal detentions, and safeguard the right to freedom of expression.

The HRCP also raised concerns over recent threats given to journalist Hamid Mir for advocating free speech and criticized the state and law enforcement agencies for taking no steps to hold the perpetrators accountable.