Pakistan’s people, in general, and its media, in particular, are living in the Orwellian year 1984. This editorial makes such a cynic comment only after the release of a summary report by the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) on Monday that confirms that circulation of the Dawn is interrupted in the cantonment areas of the country. Curtailment of freedom of expression is not only limited to such tactics. Cable operators are also pressurised to either remove Geo TV from the air or change its placement.
The two media houses are the biggest media houses in the country and the most vocal media outlets on subjects like missing persons, the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement, Baloch separatist, NAB references. Certain state institutions are trying not to allow them the freedoms that the constitution of the country grants them. The crackdown on these media houses is to ensure that they fall in line.
Furthermore, Judiciary’s silence on the matter is adding to the climate of fear and self-censorship. Journalists too receive threats for speaking their minds. The local publisher of The New York Times replacing opinion piece of Muhammad Hanif, noted Pakistani writer, on May 4, 2018, with blank space is a classic case of self-censorship.
Only a few days ago, Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), an international body, has run a report on how certain state institutions are curtailing the fundamental rights of freedom of expression and right to information. Nevertheless, CPJ is not the only one international organisation that is wary of the state’s behaviour against media houses.
Foreign media houses like The New York Times have expressed their concern over growing curtailment on media freedoms. On the other hand, The Guardian calls Pakistan one of the most dangerous countries for journalists and media houses as state institutions are keen on curtailing freedom of expression. The state should act on the recommendations of the HRCP to ensure that no one curbs the dissent, which is essential to progress.