By Usama Junaid Khan
Media Freedom Of Pakistan In 2019 As Compared to 2018
From a special coercive law of blatant censorship, Pakistan media has witnessed many forms of oppression in its 71 years of struggle filled existence.
But in 2018 the media endured an unprecedented level of imposed ‘self censorship’ through tactics unbecoming of a responsible state. Those who refused to fall in line suffer loss of readership and viewership. Unjustified covers-ups and the suppression of truth regarding crucial questions of public accountability have seriously affected the perception of quality of democracy in Pakistan.
2018 was a year of elections. Overt and covert pressures on media in the run-up to the elections cast aspersions on the fairness of the electoral exercise and were widely criticized by national as well as international observers including the Human Rights Commission and the US based committee to protect journalists.
The report state of Pakistani Media in 2018 by the Pakistan Press Foundation focuses on instances of crimes against the media, where journalists were killed, murdered, abducted, detained, and threatened by law enforcement agencies , militants ,feudal lords, and tribal leaders. TV channels, newspapers, websites and social media were blocked and banned. Media personnel and media organizations were threatened and pressured by state and non state actors .
Instances of the arrest of journalists , issuing non-bailable arrest warrants, registration of legal cases, contempt of court notices, and imposition of fines under defamation laws , were also recorded among pressures used in 2018 that sent a chilling message to all Pakistani journalists.
During 2018 , PPF investigated six cases of the murders of journalists. However, PPF determined that the primary causes of the murders were personal , or business animosities and rivalries rather than relating to their work as journalists.
Online harassment increased throughout the world , including in Pakistan. One such instance noticed this year was when Saleem Safi , a prominent Pakistani journalist, columnist and anchorperson was made the target of abuse and harassment on social media for a comment he made in a television show.
The media industry in 2018 also witnessed extreme economic pressure, which resulted in the closure of a television channel and a number of newspapers which in turn led to the loss of employment for hundreds of journalists and other media professionals.
Media freedom has been a deteriorating around the world over the past decade as in Pakistan now , in some of the most influential democracies in the world , populist leaders have overseen concerted attempts to throttle the independence of media sector. The latest press freedom index of the reporters without borders doesn’t give the PTI government good news. Pakistan has slight three places , to 142 of 180.
In the year 2019 media got freedom because it started providing information without any kind of censorship, however complete freedom does require freedom of right to seek, receive and impart information and ideas. Constitutions of Pakistan and the universally –accepted principles guarantee everyone the right of freedom of opinion and of expression.
One research says that in Pakistan media has faced the censorship however, an appreciable level of freedom has been achieved recently. Pakistani media is hugely influenced by various state and non-state actors .Military regimes in Pakistan had a special interest in controlling the media. The first step in this direction was taken by a military ruler who promulgated the press and publication ordinance in 1960. The law empowered the authorities to confiscate newspapers clamp down on newspapers providers, and arrest journalists.
Another research says that the free media brings can be rightly termed as a blessing. Firstly it educates and informs messages it easily disseminates important information across the globe. Assess to uncensored information helps to educate the masses regarding important societal issues. In Pakistan, media especially TV channels have effectively used freedom of expression to educate people on essential elements of society and citizenship. Programs broadcast on these channels educate people on social, cultural and political issues and create civic sense and responsibility among the masses. TV plays films and documentaries are good examples in this context.
After going through all above research studies, it is concluded that
Pakistan has a turbulent relationship with media freedom, under Imran Khan, elected as prime minister last year with strong backing from the military censorship is felt heavier than ever before.
The military and government have actively denied any involvement with censoring the press or culture.Dr Firdous ashiq Awan special assistant to the prime minister on information. The current PTI government is providing the best and most effective environment for freedom of speech. Journalists are free to write what they want and most news reports and against the government.
There is a regulatory deficit in regulating a variety of issue including cross media ownership and media ownership concentration. Media freedom requires a thorough revision of the entire regulatory framework and a redressing of the shortcomings and inadequacies therein in the light of best international practices and keeping in view the ground realities.
The Writer is the student of Institute of Communication studies,PU.Lahore.