Pakistan has not been high on the world’s list of countries free of media censorship. It is currently Number 142 out of 180 of Reports Without Borders (RWB) World Press Freedom Index.
But recent events have annoyed media-watchers even more. RWB says that Prime Minister Imran Khan’s latest intervention, to ban three TV channels, shows up the regime’s increasingly dictatorial attitude to broadcasts it doesn’t like. The channels affected are Chanel 24, Abbtak News and Capital TV. Each was taken down on July 8th.
RWB’s Daniel Bastard, head of the organisation’s Asia-Pacific desk, accused Pakistan of “brazen censorship” for having suspended three Pakistan news channels simply for airing – or attempting to air – an opposition leader’s press conference.
“This is an absolutely unacceptable violation of the principles of media pluralism and independence during a revelation that was clearly in the Pakistani public interest,” said Bastard. “We call on Prime Minister Imran Khan’s civilian government to take immediate steps to ensure that cable transmission of the three TV channels is restored. The recent surge in sudden acts of media censorship is exposing the current regime’s increasingly dictatorial nature.”
The news channels were covering a press conference by opposition leader Maryam Nawaz.
US-based media rights organisation, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), also condemned the move to take the three Pakistan TV news channels off air. Steven Butler, CPJ’s Asia programme coordinator, called it “simple and blatant censorship”.
Another report, carried by Al Jazeera, quotes Sadaf Khan, director of Pakistan media rights group Media Matters for Democracy, saying censorship was now at its worst in more than a decade. “The indicators we used to use on press freedom being curtailed were primarily based on journalist safety,” she said. “Now, the number of targeted attacks is coming down but the way dissent is being targeted through legal instruments that is far more dangerous.”