Journalists are an endangered community in Pakistan. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) 61 journalists have been killed in Pakistan since 1992 and scores more harassed, tortured, and attacked.
Veteran human rights activist and columnist, I.A. Rahman recently wrote a column in Dawn titled ‘Media under Fire.’ In the oped, Rahman refers to the “rapidness with which journalists, rights activists, lawyers and mainstream political parties have come together to defend the right to freedom of expression is obviously due to the seriousness of the establishment’s efforts to control not only the flow of information but the citizens’ thought process as well.”
As Rahman notes, the “media can neither inform and enlighten the masses nor can it secure their respect and trust without reporting everything that happens in the country and all that conscious citizens need to know to be able to exercise their rights, especially the right to contribute to governance. Rights activists cannot protect human rights defenders and espouse the causes of the people, especially the poor and the marginalised, unless they enjoy the right to freedom of expression. The same is true of lawyers and political parties.”
Finally, Rahman notes that the people hurt most are the common citizens as “curbs on freedom of expression and the right to know will keep them in the dark about government policies and actions that potentially undermine the health and integrity of the state. Nobody can forget the huge price — disintegration of the state — paid for withholding from the people the truth about the situation in East Pakistan for two decades. The people will also be deprived of their right to participate in governance and their right to prevent the harm to national interests by wrong policies and actions.”