On the eve of World Press Freedom Day 2022 and the first in-person press briefing at the Foreign Press Center in over two years since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the United States Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, responding to a question on the freedom of the press in Pakistan said that the Biden administration takes up the issue in their engagements with its Pakistani counterparts.
The Secretary of State added that “we’re aware of significant restrictions on media outlets and civil society more broadly in Pakistan.” He maintained “a vibrant free press, an informed citizenry are key for any nation and its future” and underscored that practices to curb the freedom of the press in the country “undermine peaceful assembly” and “undermine Pakistan’s image as well as its ability to progress.” Secretary Blinken was responding to a question by a journalist of ARY News, Jahanzaib Ali.
Journalists and media workers – offline and online – are essential to hold governments accountable and protect human rights. On #WorldPressFreedomDay, we call on countries to strengthen protections for freedom of expression. https://t.co/bcjHHKuYlO
— Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) May 3, 2022
Read More: The regime never changes in Pakistan
In the most recent attack on journalism, Arshad Sharif, a prominent journalist and the host of the late-night talk show at ARY, was reportedly detained by “men in plain clothes” believed to be from the Federal Investigation Agency. According to reports, the men barged into the house of the senior journalist at around 1:30 am and harassed his family. The anchor reportedly had apprehension of his impending illegal arrest and had directed a team of lawyers to lodge a case. The counsel intimated the court that since last night “he has not been able to establish contact with the petitioner” and has reasons to believe that the Federal Investigation Agency “malafidely and illegally detained the petitioner.”
His arrest was followed by a flurry of tweets from his peers who expressed their concern regarding the crackdown on media and journalism. Some analysts even dubbed the event as the incident of “SHO tactics” at play. However, they were quick to remind the authorities that such tactics have never played into the hands of the government but have repeatedly proved to rouse public opinion against it.
It is pertinent to mention that a report published by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) on the same day as World Press Day revealed that Pakistan ranked among the worst countries to be in as a journalist. Out of the 180 countries, Pakistan ranked 157th in terms of press freedom. According to a recent report by local media, since 1990, more than 140 journalists have been killed in Pakistan. One incident that beggars belief is the death of journalist Nazim Jokhio after he reported about the illegal hunting of endangered birds in Pakistan by foreign dignitaries.