In the past, journalists were mostly killed in conflict zones. However, in recent years, they have lost their lives due to the exposure of corruption and speading the mistakes made by those in power.
It would be neither wrong nor an exaggeration to say that the Pakistani media currently enjoys a parallel freedom.
There is no doubt that Pakistani journalists and media have the freedom and independence to speak or write what they want. One may be surprised that I say “what they wish”.
While it is possible for even controversial journalists to disseminate information, whether in the mainstream media, print media, social media or digital media, they still face a number of obstacles and hurdles in their work. The most recent example is the proposed change in the law through a regulation called the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA) 2016, which criminalizes the sharing of defamatory and fake content on social media.
The new law gives law enforcement or the Cybercrime Division the ability to arrest a person accused of making or posting abusive, vulgar, and defamatory statements on the Internet or social media without a warrant. Release on bail is not possible. The new law has been condemned by all media organizations as a “gagging, strangulation and suppression of press freedom.” Even opposition political parties have joined the protest. The proposed amendment has already been challenged in the Supreme Courts, where an injunction has been issued preventing arrests. Pakistan’s top judicial official, the Attorney General of Pakistan, has himself said in court that the proposed law is “draconian.”
Pakistani journalists and media organizations have already expressed serious concerns about the proposed amendment, as it is widely seen as a tool to silence critics of the government.
The Pakistani government rejects these observations and reservations. The latest controversy arose when a journalist made some offensive remarks about Prime Minister Imran Khan’s wife and a minister during a live television broadcast.
I believe in objective journalism that raises voice in the corridors of power for someone who has been wronged. Sponsored journalism that protects vested interests or covers up their crimes does not fall under freedom of the press. Misleading, unsubstantiated reports or broadcasts do not contribute in any way to the healthy growth of social values. Journalists are like lighthouses that bring to light what is hidden in the dark.
Unbridled criticism for the sake of criticism is not responsible journalism. As the fourth estate in the state, the media has a sacred duty to expose the abuses, corruption and misdeeds of the current government and institutions in order to provide a better future for the people. Under the proposed amendment, the prison sentence for defaming people or institutions on social media, including the judiciary and the army, will be increased from two to five years. Courts are required to rule on cases within six months, and the offense is not bailable.
Dialogues on media legislation with the government have been suspended until the draconian amendments to the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA) are reversed, according to a joint statement from the Pakistan Media Organizations Committee.
The Joint Action Committee (JAC) includes the All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS), the Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors (CPNE), the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), the Pakistan Broadcasters Association (PBA) and the Association of Electronic Media Editors and News Directors (AEMEND). The joint statement said there were a number of examples of the Ministry of Information restricting free- dom of expression, muzzling journalists and financially crippling the media in order to exert influence over reporting.
Freedom of the press in Pakistan has been damaged over the past three years not only by restrictions but also by intense financial pressure. Media owners ordered job cuts. Financial constraints are to some extent a reason for this. Media owners have made billions from government advertisements and investments in other private companies at the expense of salaries that have not been paid for months. The Corona pandemic is also a factor. Thousands of journalists have been put out of work. Hungry journalists cannot fight for the freedom of press. Meanwhile, the recently passed PECA Ordinance 2022 has been challenged in the Lahore and Islamabad High Courts. The petitions complained that the ordi- nance violates not only the Supreme Court’s rulings but also Pakistan’s constitution.
In the past, several journalists in Pakistan were banned from working and some of them died in various incidents for unknown reasons. In Pakistan, 138 journalists have been killed since 1990, mainly for exposing corruption.
Journalists used to be killed mostly in conflict areas, but in recent years they are increasingly being killed for exposing corruption, with holding facts related to climate change and the environment, and many other types of misconduct by those in power. They also receive death threats, are intimidated, harassed, and otherwise pressured into giving up their investigative reporting. There are many subtle methods to force journalists to give up. Journalists are being killed by influential people with impunity, the Express Tribune reported in its November 6, 2021 editorial.Overall, however, freedom of the press and expression in Pakistan is far better than in other countries in the region, including India.
- He has worked as a senior journalist in Business, Economics and Finance for more than 20 years. Sa- maa TV senior reporter. He has done business with different news channels including Aaj TV, Dunya TV, Bol Network and Samaa TV. He worked as a pre- senter at Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation (PBC). He worked as an assistant editor at Online News Network. He has worked as a freelance journalist for British Channel 4 and NBC America.