The World Press Freedom Index 2016 reflects Pakistan at number 147th out of 180 countries. It means the country is among the nations where right to freedom of speech and expression is in danger. It is not only hurdle to promote democracy but also violation of Article (19 and 19 A), according to the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Egypt, Iraq and Libya are worst in press freedom according to latest ranking with Turkey at 151th and Iraq 158th, Egypt 159th, Libya 164th, Iran 169th, China 176th and Syria on 177th number.
On the other hand, Europe and other continents top of the list where democracy is strengthened, people are prosperous and governments are bound to give right to expression to their citizens. According to recent reports.
A few days ago The Diplomat (an online magazines based on Tokyo, Japan) published a story about a 24-year-old freelance reporter in Pakistan is thought to be the first female journalist in that country to have been “forcibly disappeared.” Zeenat Shahzadi was on the trail of a story, tracking the events that led to the disappearance of Indian citizen Hamid Ansari in Pakistan in November 2012. BBC found that her family and human rights organizations in Pakistan believe “she was abducted by security agencies who have been accused of illegally detaining thousands of people under the guise of anti-terrorism operations.”
In 2014, Amnesty International noted that 34 journalists had been killed in Pakistan for their work since the country returned to democratic rule in 2008, after years of rule by General Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff who staged a bloodless coup against the civilian government in 1999. It not only happens in dictators era bur remain same in democratic form of government. For instance, Hamid Mir, a journalist for Geo TV was the victim of an assassination attempt in 2014. Last year, Sabeen Mahmud, a human rights activist, was killed by unknown assailants. Just last week, Khurram Zaki, a prominent human rights activist, was shot dead by unknown assailants.
Reporters Sans Frontières ranks Pakistan 147 out of 180 in its press freedom index. Given the reach of Pakistani intelligence agencies and their total avoidance of accountability, journalists working in Pakistan that dare probe into their affairs risk paying the ultimate price. This risk is amplified for women journalists especially those working as freelancers, without the backing of a major agency or national prominence.
(The writer is a staff member and can be reached at: [email protected])