Pakistan’s election season is turning out to be one in which not only politicians but even journalists face harassment and are unable to cover campaigns freely and openly.
Just this week, the international media watchdog, Reporters Sans Frontiers or Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and its Pakistan-based partner, Freedom Network (FN), appealed to the caretaker government: “What with threats, abductions, beatings, illegal suspensions and disrupted distribution, media and journalists are being harassed by the military and intelligence services, as well by political actors, in a clear attempt to intimidate them and prevent independent reporting ahead of the elections.”
The letter referred to the intimidation, threats and attacks on journalists including the break in at Marvi Sirmed’s residence and the abduction and subsequent release of Gul Bukhari
According to Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk: “We have been seeing an alarming increase in violations of press freedom and the circulation of news and information in recent months. This interference is absolutely unacceptable in a country that claims to be democratic. We call on Pakistan’s civilian and military authorities to let journalists work freely and inform the public without threats or reprisals. The respect of Pakistan’s leaders for their fellow citizens and the country’s international credibility are both at issue.”
Freedom Network executive director Iqbal Khattak added: “The Pakistani people must be fully able to exercise their constitutional right to elect a new government on 25 July. Caretaker Prime Minister Nasirul Mulk and Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar have publicly stated that they will ensure free and fair elections, for which a free and independent press is essential. The election results will have no credibility if journalists are not allowed to cover the election without hindrance, pressure or manipulation of any kind.”