Pakistan’s crackdown against media has garnered the attention of international journalists. Steven Butler, a US-based journalist, and senior program consultant for the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has urged Pakistan to honor press freedom.
Recently, the incumbent government launched a crackdown on one of Pakistan’s biggest and most-watched private TV channels, a move that drew condemnation from local and foreign media rights defenders.
ARY News, critical of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s coalition government, was suspended in Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, Sialkot, Hyderabad, Faisalabad, and other cities for airing an expose on the government. Moreover, ARY’s Senior Executive Vice President Ammad Yousaf was arrested in the wee hours of Wednesday.
Journalists’ bodies and press clubs across the country condemned the arrest and termed it an act of victimization.
“Pakistan needs to get out of the habit of filing legal cases, throwing journalists into jail, and blocking the distribution of programming in response to on-air comments it doesn’t like,” Steven Butler said. Important to note that ARY has been suspended more than once ever since the PML-N came into power.
“Authorities should immediately free ARY News head Ammad Yousuf and drop legal proceedings against other ARY journalists and executives. It’s time for Pakistan to fully honor its commitment to press freedom,” Steven Butler added.
Pakistan needs to get out of the habit of filing legal cases, throwing journalists into jail & blocking programming distribution in response to on-air comments it doesn’t like
— Committee to Protect Journalists (@pressfreedom) August 10, 2022
Plight of journalists in Pakistan
Media suppression has always been prevalent in Pakistan. Journalists have been booked under false charges and have also had their lives threatened. Matiuallah Jan, Asad Toor, Absar Alam, Ayaz Amir, and Sami Ibrahim have been attacked by ‘unknown assailants.’
According to the World Press Freedom Index 2022 report, Pakistan dropped 12 points in the index, from 145 in 2021 to 157 in 2022.
Last month, several journalists took pre-arrest bails from Islamabad High Court, including Arshad Sharif, Imran Riaz Khan, and Sabir Shakir, on FIRs registered against them across the country.
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Important to note that earlier today, a Karachi court set Ammad Yousaf free of sedition and other charges filed against him.