The ruling party of Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan is under fire for some social media posts linking critical coverage to potential “treason”.
The official account of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party fired off over two dozen tweets in English and Urdu late Tuesday, lambasting the press for coverage criticizing the government and Khan which it deemed “Anti-State”.
“Freedom of Expression is beauty of Democracy. Expressing Enemy’s Stance is Not Freedom of speech but treason against its people,” read one tweet.
Media houses & journalists must take care that in their quest for criticism on State, they intentionally or unintentionally do not end up propagating enemy’s stance. Freedom of expression is immense power. And with great power there is great responsibility!#JournalismNotAgenda pic.twitter.com/YdxD9Al5Pb
— PTI (@PTIofficial) July 16, 2019
“Media houses & journalists must take care that in their quest for criticism on State, they intentionally or unintentionally do not end up propagating enemy’s stance,” read another, with the hashtag: #JournalismNotAgenda.
— PTI North Punjab (@PtiNorthPunjab) July 17, 2019
Pakistan routinely ranks among the world’s most dangerous countries for media workers, and reporters have frequently been detained, beaten and even killed for being critical of the government or powerful military.
In recent years the space for dissent has shrunk further, with the government announcing a crackdown on social networks and traditional media houses decrying pressure from authorities that they say has resulted in widespread self-censorship.
Media watchdog Reporters Without Borders recently warned of “disturbing dictatorial tendencies” after three Pakistani TV stations were briefly taken off air in what it called “brazen censorship”.
The Committee to Protect Journalist last year warned that the powerful Pakistani military had “quietly, but effectively, set restrictions on reporting”.
The government has defended its record, and last week Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told a media freedom conference in London that there was “no question of gagging” journalists after being challenged on his country’s record.
Prime Minister Khan, a cricket hero who captained the national team to World Cup victory in 1992, was elected last summer after running a fiery campaign — vowing to crack down on corruption and build an Islamic welfare state.
But, nearly one year later, his rule has been marred by a crackdown on civil rights activists, the rounding up of opposition leaders, and increased pressure on the media.
You would think the brains behind the governmental party’s social media accounts would rethink such campaigns after being schooled by Reporters Without Borders. Sadly, it will probably make them double down. https://t.co/TVn5d5fDVO
— Amber Rahim Shamsi (@AmberRShamsi) July 17, 2019
His government is also struggling to right the country’s floundering economy, with ballooning deficits, soaring inflation, and a sinking rupee stirring discontent.
Among other tweets, the PTI also warned that the media was a “powerful tool of depicting the positive image of our country. Anti-State actions not only impact the credibility of our journalism community but also sends out a wrong message to the world”.
AFP with additional input from GVS News Desk