Open Letter To PM Imran Khan: RSF Says The Credibility Of Democracy Is At Stake
In an open letter to Prime Minister Imran Khan a year after he took office, the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) urged him to recognise the alarming decline in the state of press freedom in the country and to take urgent measures to address the situation, saying, “The credibility of the Pakistani state and democracy is at stake.”
“When asked, during an official visit to the United States last week, about recent press freedom violations in your country, you replied: “Pakistan has one of the freest presses in the world (…) To say there are curbs on the Pakistan press is a joke,” the letter read.
Describing the remarks as a “joke”, it added, “You claim that the Pakistani press is one of the freest in the world” and “The Pakistani media is even freer than the British media.”
“Just a few hours after you landed in the United States, the leading Pakistani TV news channel, Geo News, was censored yet again,” the RSF reminded the prime minister.
It also mentioned the move to cut short a live Geo News interview with former president Asif Ali Zardari by Hamid Mir as well as suddenly suspending the signals of AbbTakk TV, 24 News and Capital TV on July 8.
“Najam Sethi, a well-known journalist who often works with 24 News, confirmed to RSF that the suspension was a reprisal for their coverage of a press conference by Maryam Nawaz Sharif, another opposition figure.”
“These brazen cases of censorship, which seriously threaten journalistic independence and pluralism, are characteristic of non-democratic regimes,” said the RSF.
Talking about the slogan of Naya Pakistan, the letter read, “It is nonetheless clear that, as far as press freedom goes, the change has been for the worse. Ranked 142nd out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index, your country has fallen three places in the past year. And the events of recent months offer no grounds for optimism about the ‘new Pakistan’.”
The letter also cited killings of two journalists – Ali Sher Rajpar and Malik Amanullah – and Muhammad Bilal Khan, a blogger.
“When not targeted physically, journalists who cross certain red lines are subjected to judicial harassment. They include Shahzeb Jillani,” it noted.
“Even the prestigious daily Dawn – founded in 1941 by Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the father of the Pakistani nation, as part of the fight against British colonialism – is being subjected to harsh economic harassment.”
“According to RSF’s sources, this arbitrary decision was a reprisal for an article published the previous day about a press conference you gave in Tehran in which you recognized that Pakistan-based militants had been involved in attacks inside Iran. In other words, your government does not tolerate your country’s media repeating what you say while abroad.”
“In the light of this recent surge in press freedom violations, of which this list is not exhaustive, you will appreciate that to talk of ‘one of the freest presses in the world’ is clearly tantamount to an obscenity.”
The RSF demanded, “We therefore urge your government to allow Pakistan’s journalists to exercise their profession in complete safety and with complete independence, as envisaged in article 19 of the 1973 constitution.”