'2018 was year of increased strangulation for freedom of speech in Pakistan': report

'2018 was year of increased strangulation for freedom of speech in Pakistan': report
Canada-based press freedom monitor FreedomTalk has published a report in which it suggested that '2018 was the year of increased strangulation for freedom of speech and freedom of expression in Pakistan'.

The report claimed that 'authorities and unidentified assailants used killings, kidnappings, arrests, intimidations,and censorship to silence the journalists, activists, and dissents'.

It also cited journalists, politicians and activists who were subjected to violence. Below are the statistics.

  • Journalist Sohail Khan and Nawa-i-Waqt reporter Zeeshan Butt gunned down for their work in Pakistan.

  • At least 58 incidents of assaults, arrests, and harassments related to freedom of speech, freedom of expression and Minorities.

  • At least 25 known incidents enforced disappearances and missing persons while many cases were not reported in Pakistan.

  • At least 70 incidents of censorship and fines to suppress press freedom, freedom of speech and freedom of expression in Pakistan.

  • At least 30 attacks of three dominant political parties, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) on press freedom, freedom of speech, freedom of expression and religious freedom in Pakistan. The ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) led the number of attacks.

  • At least 17 on-campus incidents against press freedom, freedom of speech, freedom of expression and religious freedom in Pakistan.

Journalist Zeeshan Butt of Nawai-e-Waqt was allegedly shot dead by chairman of the Begowala union council, Imran Cheema, because the politician was 'angered by the reporter's questions on new taxes'.

On the other hand, Sohail Khan was shot dead by unidentified assailants. Sohail had published an article about drug mafia and was seeking police protection after receiving threats.

The report also mentioned other prominent journalists that were attacked and censored in 2018.
Among the journalists and activists are Sailaab Mehsud of RFE/RL's Mashaal radio and Zafar Wazir of a local TV, Mansoor Khan (The Nation), journalist Nasrullah Khan Chaudhry (Daily Nai Baat), Cyril Almeida (DAWN), Kadafi Zaman ( Norwegian TV 2), Marvi Sirmed (Daily Times), Murtaza Zehri (Voice of America), Saleem Safi(GeoNews), Maryam Hasan (editor of the annual report on the state of human rights in Pakistan and a consultant for The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan), Taha Siddiqui (France 24 and Pakistan bureau chief of Indian television channel WION), Zafar Khoso (7News), Abbas Gul Mastoi (Hum TV/Roz News), Muhammad Moosa Baloch (ARY News), Mukhtiar Dhul (Mehran TV), Muhammad Moosa Sarki (Sindh TV) and Abdul Razzaq Burhro (Daily Mehran).

Moreover, it was also mentioned that in June, unidentified armed men kidnapped a female journalist and activist, Gul Bukhari in Lahore. Bukhari was on her way to the studio of Waqt TV. She returned home after several hours following an intense backlash on social media.

FreedomTalk also claimed that authorities were putting pressure of media houses and economically crushing them.

"The authorities are also choking the journalists economically, as the Ministry of Information has lowered the advertisement rates for media houses, resulting in more than 2000 media workers out of the jobs within the last few months – Journalists and media houses construe it a ploy to silence freedom of speech".

Attacks by political parties on freedom on speech and expression

FreedomTalk mentioned in their report that journalists also received threats and were attacked by members of mainstream political parties. For example, they cited an incident where Prime Minister Imran Khan threatened a journalist - who was asking questions regarding Khan's appearance before the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) - saying that 'I am a very dangerous man'.

Another incident was cited in which it was said that supporters of Jaffar Khan Mandokhail assaulted a TV journalist Asad Khan Betini in Quetta. "The journalist was investigating corruption in the Minister’s jurisdiction".

Also in April, a councilor Rai Mohammad Khan assaulted and detained a DawnNewsTV reporter, Bilal Sheikh in Sheikhupura.

In September, ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) blocked official media including state-owned Pakistan Television (PTV) and the Associated Press of Pakistan (APP), from covering the Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to Peshawar, the report said.

Attacks on Minorities

The reported also said 2018 was not a good year for minorities in Pakistan.

"Authorities, radicals, and vigilantes sustained blasphemy laws arbitrarily and equally targeted Muslim-minorities and non-Muslims. In 2018, at least six minority-Hazara-Shia and Eight Christians gunned down in different incidents."

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