World Press Freedom Day was observed across the globe including Pakistan on Wednesday to pay tribute to journalists who lost their lives in the exercise of their profession.

The day was first announced in 1993 by the United Nations General Assembly following a recommendation adopted at the 26th Session of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) General Conference in 1991.

Giving his message for the day, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif said that the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government values freedom of press as an essential part of democracy.

Sharif said that responsible media helps in eliminating corruption, lawlessness and terrorism by playing its role neutrally.

Chairman Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has said that any attempt for gagging freedom of press would be tantamount to weaken democracy and encourage discrimination and disparity in the society.

He said PPP leadership had undergone world’s worst media trial in the history at the hands of tin-pot dictators and other opponents but it always stood for freedom of press because our Party’s ideology was to build a society based on tolerance and proactive progress.

He expressed concern that Pakistan’s ranking on the World Press Freedom Index has come down to 139th position in 180 countries, which is very poor and needs to be improved to create better image of our nation in the world.

To highlight the importance of the day, Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) called upon journalists to observe the day by holding rallies throughout the country.

Meantime, several media houses aired stories, interviews, seminars, conferences and in-depth reports in connection with press freedom issues.

According to Reporters Without Borders website, India slumped three positions to 136 in 2017. The website said, “Journalists are increasingly the targets of online smear campaigns by the most radical nationalists, who vilify them and even threaten physical reprisals.”

On India, the organization said, “Journalists working for local media outlets are often the targets of violence by soldiers acting with the central government’s tacit consent.”

Pakistan was at 147th position in the ranking; however, in the 2017, it is now ranked at 139. The organization said, “The Pakistani media are regarded as among the freest in Asia but are targeted by extremist groups, Islamist organizations, and the feared intelligence agencies, all of which are on RSF’s list of Predators of Press Freedom.”