Judiciary Helps Pakistan Deep State and Government in Curtailing Media Freedom

Press freedom has always ranked abysmally low in Pakistan with the Pakistani state repressing freedom of speech and expression. At periodic intervals, however, the Pakistani judiciary has tried to hold the state accountable. Recently, however, a recent judicial order amounts to what Dawn has called “shooting the messenger.”

On January 3, an order issued by the Islamabad High Court (IHC) about three media persons in a contempt of court case led the Association of Electronic Media Editors and News Directors (AEMEND) and the Pakistan Broadcasters Association (PBA) to issue a statement referring to this order as a worrying development because the journalists had merely reported on an affidavit that existed and had been verified. Named among the seven individuals who may be indicted next week are publisher and editor-in-chief of Jang Group Mir Shakeelur Rehman, journalist Ansar Abbasi and resident editor Amer Ghouri.”

According to an editorial in Dawn, this order “sets an unfortunate precedent for press freedom. Indicting the media workers in question in a contempt case for learning about the story and then confirming it with the former GB judge Rana Shamim — and also contacting Mr Nisar — is a move that may prove detrimental to the cause of press freedom.”

As Dawn editorial points out, “the reporter cannot be punished for reporting on it. Indicting him will be viewed as a blow to press freedom, and may be seen as a warning to reporters to self-censor and to think twice before reporting on a matter even if it is true and in the public interest. Against this backdrop, the judiciary’s signal that it may indict the media workers will set a questionable precedent.”

Author: Zahid Khan

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