Islamabad: The climate for press freedom in Pakistan has been deteriorating, even as overall violence against and murders of journalists decline, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said on Wednesday, reports Dawn.
In a special report compiled after recording testimonies in various cities of the country, the CJP said journalists, including freelancers, had “painted a picture of a media under siege”.“The military has quietly, but effectively, set restrictions on reporting: from barring access to regions ... to encouraging self-censorship through direct and indirect methods of intimidation, including calling editors to complain about coverage and even allegedly instigating violence against reporters,” alleged the CJP, an independent organisation working to promote press freedom worldwide.
According to journalists and press freedom advocates quoted by the CJP, the decline in violence against members of the press followed the military’s swift response to the terrorist attack on Peshawar’s Army Public School in December 2014.
But “while a drop in the murders of journalists is good news, the threat of attack remains,” the CJP report said.
Journalists and editors across the country have resorted to self-censorship due to a “widespread sense of intimidation”. According to them, issues on which caution is frequently exercised while reporting include religion, land disputes, militants, and the economy — subjects that can provoke government officials, militant groups, religious extremists, or the military, the CJP said.
The report observed that legislation such as the Pakistan Protection Ordinance, a counterterrorism law that allows people to be detained without being charged for 90 days, can be used to punish critical reporting.
“I think the numbers [of killed journalists] are going down because the resistance from the media that used to come, let’s say five years or six years ago, had drastically gone down as well,” the report quoted Asad Baig, founder and executive director of Media Matters for Democracy, as saying.