Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Waning Press Freedom in Pakistan

Washington, DC – Freedom of the Press in Pakistan is legally protected by the law of Pakistan as stated in the constitutional amendments, while the specified media law generally protects the sovereignty, national integrity, and moral principles, Freedom of Information Ordinance 2002, and Code of Conduct Rules 2010. Still, the way media and media owners are treated in Pakistan by the different governments is an example of its own.

There is no doubt that every media group in Pakistan and others in all parts of the world has its own policy regarding coverage of politics and political parties. Even in the United States, the two media giants (CNN and Fox News) are openly toeing the line of two different political parties. However, these media groups, owners, and anchors never felt threatened by the person sitting behind the walls of the White House, whether he is a “Democrat” or “Republican,” as it is the general public who decides what they watch and who they support. But in Pakistan, the situation is totally the opposite, as it is not the public but rather the government and other powerful institutions that try to decide the policies of private media groups.

Geo News and ARY News in Pakistan are just like CNN and Fox News. Both news channels are always in competition and play an important part, especially in politics and political parties. There has been a rivalry between Geo and ARY since the start of the era of Private news channels in Pakistan. Geo news looks like it is pushing the agenda of Nawaz Sharif, while ARY News is a sympathizer of Imran Khan. When Imran Khan was ruling the country, he was openly criticizing Geo News for running a hate campaign against him like “Donald Trump” used to do against CNN and its anchors. Now when the party of Nawaz Sharif is in power, he and his associates are targeting ARY News.

When Imran Khan was in power, the owner of Geo News, Mir Shakeel, spent many months behind bars on fabricated cases. The government not only denied advertisements to Geo News but, with the help of the other powerful institutions, pressured multinational companies and private groups not to give business to Geo News. The story is the same, but the target is now ARY News. The CEO of ARY News, Salman Iqbal, who is a true patriot and always puts Pakistan’s interest first, was forced to live outside the country while the transmission of ARY News was banned for almost 40 days and is still on and off by the government agency. ARY’s top Anchors were forced to resign and are now living in exile because of threats they have in their own country. This spectacle is going on and on.

Every government in Pakistan that comes into power claims that they will ensure freedom of the media at all levels, but all of them fail because politicians are not the only ones that the media fears. There are other powerful institutions and people who always try to hold the horns.

United States and international press freedom organizations expressed concerns about the situation of media freedom in Pakistan, but for the safety of journalists and their families, countries like the United States, Europe, and organizations like the United Nations and others should take stern actions like imposing sanctions on the organizations and individuals who are targeting media owners and journalists.

Author profile
Jahanzaib Ali

The writer is a Washington-based journalist and author. He has been covering international politics and foreign policy issues for the last 15 years. He can be reached at [email protected] and [email protected]

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