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Thursday April 18, 2024

US senator concerned at press freedom in India, Pakistan

By Wajid Ali Syed
March 24, 2023

WASHINGTON: A US senator has expressed deep concern over the state of freedom of press and expression in India and Pakistan.

Senator Chris Van Hollen, a member of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, vociferously stated on Wednesday that the freedom of press in India and Pakistan was in a bad state compared to what it was before. “This is very very troubling,” he said during a hearing on the US State department’s budgetary request, adding, “At times it had a very vibrant press, but right now we are seeing a critical crackdown.”

Hollen pointed out that the State Department’s Human Rights Report, which came out a couple of days ago, indicated both India and Pakistan were seeing increasing threats to press freedom. “Both countries are increasingly dangerous places for journalists trying to do their jobs.”

The State Department, which released the report on human rights violations and the freedom of press and expression, was not alone in this, he said. Other organisations that are out there to protect freedom of the press have indicated that both these countries have serious problems. “Reporters Without Borders, ranks India 150 out of 180 and Pakistan 157 out of 180,” Hollen told Secretary of State Tony Blinken, who was attending the hearing as a witness. Senator Hollen said he would pick up these issues to discuss later with the secretary.

The department’s Human Rights report had mentioned grave injustices, significant human rights issues and serious restrictions on free expression and media, including violence against journalists, unjustified arrests and disappearances of journalists, censorship, and criminal defamation laws in both India and Pakistan.