Not long so ago, Pakistani journalists and media were known for their fearless reporting and courageous stance against the authoritarianism of the state throughout the world. But these are Orwellian times. Of late, Pakistani journalists think that the state is increasingly bent on gagging any criticism that they make of the government policies. Nevertheless, it will be unfair to criticise the present government for curbing dissent. State’s keenness on censoring opposition to its policies predates Imran Khan’s government. But what is surprising is Khan’s continuation of such policies.

And as a result, what we see is the unprecedented trend of self-censorship that media houses have reduced themselves to. Today, one can hardly see media performing its most fundamental task, that is, acting as a watchdog. Unsurprisingly, both print and electronic media are busy in appeasing the government. Such trends in media mean that journalism is under threat more than it has ever been in Pakistan. It is alarming to note that today the state is becoming “distrustful of the independent mind[s].” In the process of such distrust, the government forgets that it is sowing the seeds of future political and social instabilities by curbing the dissent.

According to the latest ranking by the Reporters Without Borders, Pakistan ranks 142 out of 180 countries in 2019 World Press Freedom Index. Fears are that Pakistan will go further down on the 2020 list. It is high time for the government to take up all such reports and criticisms seriously and allow the freedom of expression to journalists, artists and thinkers. The state needs to realise that these people who make up the brain of any society criticise the government actions because of the deep love they have for their homeland. Brushing dissent aside will harm the country in unimaginable ways. The sooner the government realises this, the better it will be for the country.