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April 30, 2021

US expresses concern over Pak media restrictions

WASHINGTON: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has expressed concern over "significant restrictions" on media outlets and on the civil society in Pakistan.

"Media and content restrictions as well as a lack of accountability for attacks, disappearances against journalists clearly are a threat to the ability to exercise the right to freedom of expression and association in Pakistan. We’ve documented some of this in our Country Reports on Human Rights practices, and we see media outlets, journalists, their families in Pakistan often subject to threats, harassment at the hands of security forces, political parties, militants, other groups," the secretary said while addressing a virtual roundtable meeting Wednesday afternoon.

Responding to a question about compelling countries like Pakistan and India to

promote freedom of the press, Secretary Blinken said that the US regularly raises such issues and concerns with Pakistani authorities in conversations and in meetings.

The State Department in February announced the "Khashoggi Ban", a visa restriction policy on individuals who, acting on behalf of a foreign government, are believed to have been directly engaged in serious, extraterritorial counter-dissident activities. Beyond the Khashoggi Ban policy and other relevant laws, the secretary said, the administration keeps highlighting practices that they find objectionable.

"Our open and honest engagement with Pakistan enables us, I think, to have an ongoing, sustained dialogue on human rights issues more broadly, and more specifically when it comes to press freedom, the rule of law, religious freedom, even as we collaborate in a number of areas where we have very clear mutual interests," Secretary Blinken said.