Islamabad [Pakistan], June 5 (ANI): Pakistan has been witnessing “severe” criticism over its press freedom in the country after recent “major” incidents took place barring and assaulting journalists for criticising the government and the Army.

Prominent senior journalist Hamid Mir was taken off the air this week after he spoke out against the country’s military at a protest against an attack on another journalist.

Mir had delivered a speech at a protest in support of another journalist Asad Toor who was recently attacked by three masked men for criticising the government.

Both the incidents have damaged the image of Pakistan as many organisations had expressed their disappointments.

A study was done by the European Foundation for South Asian Studies, which reveals that the situation has assumed such grim proportions in Pakistan that the Imran Khan-led government, not satisfied with the existing impunity for killings and harassment of journalists, has put into motion a draconian new media law, the Pakistan Media Development Authority (PMDA) Ordinance 2021, which seeks to centralize media oversight under one oppressive authority and which calls for media tribunals to meet swift punishment to journalists for violating the new rules.

This obvious move to formalize censorship by the State has been termed a “media martial law” by the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), while others have cryptically commented that the new law would make the junta in Myanmar proud.

The Pakistani government, meanwhile, sought to deny that it had anything to do with the attack on Toor or the laying off of Mir, and in the process made allegations that bordered on the unintelligible and absurd.

Information Minister Fawad Hussain Chaudhry tweeted that the government had nothing to do with the working of any broadcast group and that all of them were functioning under relevant constitutional clauses and they independently decided to air their programs and appoint teams for them. Similarly, on the attack against Toor, the Information Ministry said in a statement that the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Pakistan’s excessively powerful spy agency, had “totally disassociated” itself from the attack.

Mir had made an observation in his speech at the protest on 28 May that seemed to turn the traditional thinking on Pakistan on its head. He had alleged “You (the military establishment) say that your tanks have rusted and that you want friendship with India, when we don’t help you build the new narrative of friendship with India, you call out media for not helping you.

Freedom of the press has long been a problem in Pakistan but the situation has deteriorated markedly under Imran Khan, who has dismissed allegations of attacks on the Pakistani press as a “joke”.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has ranked Pakistan the fifth most dangerous place for the practice of journalism, with 138 media persons there having lost their lives in the line of duty between 1990 and 2020.

In 2021 alone, 3 journalists have been murdered and one, Absar Alam, injured in an attempted assassination. Media professionals across the country were targeted with impunity by militants, political actors, and security agencies. (ANI)


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