Lack of Press Freedom in Pakistan
On the occasion of World Press Freedom Day, Global Human Rights Defense writes this letter to demand that action be made against the continued lack of press freedom in Pakistan specifically Balochistan, Sindh and Baltistan over the past few years. Unfortunately, this is not the first time and will likely not be the last time that an incident of this nature has taken place. In the Reporters without Borders Press Freedom Index 2021, Pakistan is ranked 145 out of 180 countries.1 Between May 2019 and April 2020, there have been more than 90 cases of attacks and violations against members of the press in Pakistan, according to a report by Freedom Network. This implies that there is a severe lack of press freedom in the country. Reporters believe that these incidents have increased significantly with the growing military influence in the government.
In order to fully understand the gravity of this issue, we will highlight a few recent cases in this letter.
In 2019, a twenty-two year old Pakistani blogger and journalist with more than sixteen thousand Twitter followers, forty-eight thousand Youtube subscribers and twenty-two thousand Facebook followers was murdered by an unidentified man, according to local sources. It is suspected that a dagger was used to kill him. The freelance journalist who hailed from Gilgit-Baltistan was known for critiquing the country’s powerful military and its notorious spy agency.
On Sept. 11, 2020, Bilal Farooqi, an editor of ‘The Express Tribune’ was charged for defaming the military and spring catered against it. This was after a factory worker highlighted the journalist’s social media posts that were allegedly criticizing the Pakistani Army. Although he was released soon after, a complaint was registered against Absar Alam, a senior journalist who is the former chairman of the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority. He was accused of publishing derogatory tweets against Prime Minister Imran Khan and state institutions.
In July 2020,according to CCTV footage, officials and policemen surrounded reporter Matiullah Jan outside an Islamabad school where his wife works as a teacher. He was dragged out of his vehicle in broad daylight. The reporter, who is known for criticizing the military, was detained and released a few hours later. Several journalists hailing from Pakistan have been forced to take shelter in European countries to avoid being arrested and detained.
In 2020, Pakistani forces picked up four individuals from occupied Balochistan, two of whom later went missing. The missing persons include Din Mohammad and Liaqat. This is, unfortunately, yet another case of abduction affiliated with journalists using their right to press freedom in Pakistan. The forcefully ab ducted journalists were affiliated with news channels broadcasting in Pashto and Urdu.
Most recently in 2021, a thirty-one year old Ajay Lalvani was shot dead by unidentified assailants. He was a reporter with a private Royal News TV Channel and an Urdu language newspaper Daily Puchano. He was shot in the stomach, arm, and knee which ultimately led to his demise. The motive of crime was later linked to the victim’s professional responsibilities.
Pakistan ranks ninth on the Committee to Protect Journalists annual Global Impunity Index, which assesses countries where journalists are murdered regularly and their killers are not punished. How many more journalists must die in Pakistan before action is taken?
As an international community, we must start focusing more on human rights in countries of the Global South. Action must be taken now; the clock is ticking for all those journalists who dare to call out and highlight the military influence in Pakistan.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Mr. Sradhanand Sital
Global Human Rights Defence