Crackdown on journalists in Pakistan

Pakistan is one of the most dangerous countries for journalists, evidence and data collated by Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and rights organisations have demonstrated. Be it impunity, threats by intelligence agencies or attacks by non-state actors, all point towards an environment not just disallowing free speech but insistent on eliminating any dissent.
There was a time when Pakistan's media was considered among the most outspoken in South Asia. It was free and enjoying considerable freedom in term of criticizing the government’s policies openly. Nevertheless, economic, pressure, government laws, access to information, religious pressure, immature politics, social and societal mores, terrorism, etc. are the factors that inhibit the watchdog function in the Pakistan media. But the situation is very different now.
A leading Pakistani journalist has revealed that the country’s Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has recently registered cases against 49 media persons and social media activists under the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA).  Names include @UmarCheema1 @AzazSyed @murtazasolang @ammarmasood3 @AsadAToor @bilalfqi etc,” Mubashir Zaidi tweeted on Thursday night. Zaidi, who hosts the popular talk show, Zara Hat Kay, didn’t give more details.
Journalist bodies have condemned the move and have demanded that the cases be withdrawn. The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists in a tweet vowed to hold countrywide protests if the government didn’t withdraw the cases. A  fortnight ago, global monitor Human Rights Watch (HRW) had stated in a report critical of the government that a week prior to that, Prime Minister Imran Khan had “asserted there is no media crackdown in Pakistan and that he and his government are far more unprotected than the media”. 
Currently, there are more than 100 TV channels, around 200 FM Radio stations, approximately 3000 thousands newspapers, and a huge network of advertising agencies are operating in the media landscape of Pakistan. Newspaper industry-owned media groups have launched their TV channels, e.g.; Jang Group – Geo, Dawn Group—Dawn TV, Nawa- e-Waqt Group—Waqt TV, etc. The growth also led to the modern infrastructure in the media industry, such as state of the art equipped technologically studios, communication facilities, more skilled workers and media education.
Over the past year, a number of media organisations have had to downsize or close down due to declining advertising revenue or other financial constraints. The printing presses have been pressured to stop from publishing certain newspapers, cable operators have been asked to cease broadcasting certain channels and big businesses have been advised against putting up advertisements with certain media outlets.

- Prabhakar Purandare

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