KARACHI: Reporters Sans Frontiers has ranked Pakistan in 157 out of 180 countries with a score of 37.99 on account of severe constraints in media freedom. It said the country ever since Independence has oscillated between civil society’s quest for greater press freedom and the political elite’s constant reassertion of extensive control over the media.
Last year Pakistan ranked 145 in the RSF global media ratings.
Describing Pakistan as one of the world’s deadliest countries for journalists, with three to four murders each year, Reporters Sans Frontiers said those are often linked to cases of corruption or illegal trafficking and which go completely unpunished. Any journalist who crosses the red lines becomes the target of in-depth surveillance that could lead to abduction and detention.
Under the guise of protecting journalism, Pakistani law is used to censor any criticism of the government and the armed forces. The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA), created in 2002, is concerned less with regulating the media sector than with regulating the content it publishes.
The Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA), adopted in 2016, is used more to restrict online freedom of expression than to crack down on online crime. As for the Protection of Journalists and Media Professionals Act, passed in 2021, said protection is conditional on reporters adopting a certain “conduct”. As a result of these ambiguously worded laws, journalists who cross the implicit lines dictated by the authorities are exposed to heavy administrative and criminal penalties – up to three years in prison for “sedition”, for example.