Pakistan is one of the most dangerous places to be a journalist or own a media house. Pakistan ranks 139th out of 180 countries in Reporters Sans Frontier (RSF)’s 2018 World Press Freedom Index. According to another media watchdog, Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), 60 journalists have been killed in Pakistan since 1992. Following on the ban against Geo/Jang/News group comes the news about the banning and censorship against Pakistan’s oldest newspaper, Dawn, that was founded by Quaid e Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah.
On May 12, the Dawn published an interview with former PM Nawaz Sharif in which Mr Sharif criticized what he called “parallel governments” inside Pakistan, spoke about how Pakistan had become isolated and stated ““Militant organisations are active. Call them non-state actors, should we allow them to cross the border and kill 150 people in Mumbai? Explain it to me. Why can’t we complete the [Mumbai 2008 terror attacks] trial?”
The interview led to a pushback from the military intelligence establishment and within 3 days there was disruption in the distribution of Dawn newspaper in many areas of Pakistan. The Press Council of Pakistan “notified Dawn’s editor that the newspaper breached the ethical code of practice by publishing content that “may bring into contempt Pakistan or its people or tends to undermine its sovereignty or integrity as an independent country.”
According to RSF: “The interview, which reportedly displeased the Pakistani military, appeared in the 12 May (Saturday) issue and the blocking began on 15 May. According to RSF’s information, distribution is being disrupted in most of Baluchistan province, in many cities in Sindh province and in all military cantonments.”
RSF also stated: “The unwarranted blocking of the distribution of one of the main independent newspapers has yet again shown that the military are determined to maintain their grip on access to news and information in Pakistan. It is clear that the military high command does not want to allow a democratic debate in the months preceding a general election. We call on the authorities to stop interfering in the dissemination of independent media and to restore distribution of Dawn throughout Pakistan.”