Stringer Asia Logo
Share on Google+
news of the day
in depth
Press freedom in Pakistan
  • press freedom
    press freedom
Few lines, while the country was busy counting contagions and deaths. "The prime minister ... has been pleased to appoint Lt Gen (Rtd) Asim Saleem Bajwa as special assistant to the prime minister on information and broadcasting, in [an"> honorary capacity, with immediate effect" a notification issued by the Cabinet Division of the pakistani PM Imran Khan said. Proving, once more, what the sane part of the country has been now saying for almost two years: that the civilian government is little more than a farce and Imran Khan is nothing but an hologram basically deputed to beg for money and otherwise to make a fool of himself the way he did with the Corona Tigers Relief Teams. And, above all, that the real government of the country is the Army. According to many, the Army stepped openly out, after allowing Imran to give foolish speeches about Coronavirus just to prove the civilian government was totally uncapable to deal with the emergency, and does not even care anymore to keep in place that tiny layer of formal 'democracy' it kept until now. The military is everywhere, officials sit in all the strategic commissions in the country and the appointment of a retired Lt General as 'special assistent' on information and broadcasting should not surprise. Pakistan’s media persecution has in fact touched in the past two years new depths. Abuses, abductions, assassinations and eviction from jobs are the new normal as media houses, while retrenching employees, engage on self-censorship to survive and struggle with the everyday more stringent rules imposed by the 'civilian and democratic' government of the country.  Media and human right bodies, both domestic and global, has been for long time now pointing fingers at the Imran Khan Government that, as per its own proud claims, has his military mentors and his civil leadership “on the same page”. Threats to media house owners have been unprecedented. They are subjected to blacklisting of newspapers and blocking of their copies in some restive areas of the country. Women journalists are even worse off. Besides harassment at work and on way to work, they are subjected to online abuses. Women have to apply self-censorship and cut working hours to stay safe. According to a report released by the Islamabad based organization Media Matters for Democracy 3 out of 10 women journalists were victims of serious online offences such as blackmail and incitement to violence against them. According to the data collected by the USA Freedom Network, 133 Pakistani journalists have been killed since the year 2000. The legal proceedings in all the 33 incidents of journalists’ killings that took place from 2013 to 2019 have been documented and analysed, and the result is: hundred per cent impunity for the killers, zero per cent justice for the murdered journalists. In its 2019 report, the american think-tank Freedom House has declared Pakistan ‘not free’ in terms of internet use for the ninth consecutive year. All the international bodies have been highlighting also the threatening, even disparaging language used by the people in the government, starting from Imran Khan, and the explicit warnings issued by the ISPR, Pakistan Army’s media wing, if they are not toeing their line. In the last few months, moreover, a new, even more worrying trend, has started. Pakistani journalists and activists are not anymore safe even abroad. Ahmad Waqass Goraya, a pakistani blogger forced to leave the country after being taken and tortured by the same State that should ensure his freedom of speech, last February has been beaten and threatened in Rotterdam, out of his house, by urdu-speaking 'unknown' people. “This attack fits the modus operandi of Pakistani spy agencies” he told Reporters sans Frontiers. There are at least two well known pakistani journalists abroad being threatened with retaliation against their families still in Pakistan by the same ISI. Beside the activist Gul Bukhari who, again in February, has been openly threatened by pakistani autorities with terrorism charges and a request of extradition from UK if she did not stop her criticism. Then, in March, something even more worrysome happened. Sajjid Hussain, a Baloch journalist, went missing in Uppsala, Sweden, where he was living as a refugee. After almost two months (he disappeared the 2 March) there are no news of him yet and the Swedish authorities refuse to share informations on their supposed investigations. Again, the 'disappearence' fits the modus operandi of the ISI and is in line with the treatment of Baloch and Pashtuns in Pakistan but Sajjid's family, still in Pakistan, is too scared even to mention the word 'ISI'. The Army is ruling Pakistan with complete impunity, becoming everyday more powerful and arrogant. Baked by China, and with the connivence of half of the world pretending to believe in his 'civilian and democratic government'. The appointment of Bajwa, is ultimately only another nail on the coffin of freedom in Pakistan. And, unfortunately, will not be the last.
Francesca Marino