May 3 was World Press Freedom Day, and in the latest World Press Freedom Day released by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), Pakistan has fallen by 12 places to 157 out of 180 countries.
As an editorial in Dawn stated, “the Pakistani state has long had a fraught relationship with the media, paying lip service to the notion of press freedom even while doing all it can to bend its practitioners to its will. Decades of overt and covert military interventions and frequently unstable civilian governments have created a landscape where the media, instead of being a watchdog for the public interest, is expected to serve as a conduit for a heavily securitised approach to domestic and regional developments. Reportage or opinions on ‘sensitive’ issues invites scrutiny by powerful quarters and entails risks to journalists that have varied in intensity and scope at different points in time.”
Further, “the last few years have been particularly challenging. Employing its social media outreach to devastating effect, the recently ousted PTI government did more to throttle mainstream media than perhaps any civilian government in the country’s history. Even well-regarded senior journalists critical of its performance would find themselves at the receiving end of an online mob lynching by troll armies using the canard of ‘fake news’ to malign and discredit them.”
Finally, “findings in the Freedom Network’s latest annual report echo this pattern, with the state and its functionaries ranking as the “biggest threat actor” targeting media in Pakistan. It was the suspected perpetrator in a whopping 41pc of at least 86 attacks against the media and its practitioners that the organisation recorded between May 2021 and April 2022.”