Pakistani Journalists Under Attack
‘In 2020, a record of 274 journalists was unjustly imprisoned.’
YouTube Pakistani journalist Asad Ali Toor on May 25 was attacked by three masked men in his apartment. Toor was accused of attacking the army and the military. He was subject to violence and intimidation. The three men tied him up and tortured him, introducing themselves as officers from the Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI), the shadowy security arm of the Pakistani military.
The attack on the Pakistani journalist raised some questions on the freedom of speech as well freedom of the Press in the country. Toor said after being attacked: “I was told that the army and ISI were not happy with my journalism.”
While torturing me, they asked me why I had named ISI and the army in my reporting, he added.
Hamid Mir, a prominent Pakistani journalist, and Geo TV host have spoken out in support of Toor and journalism freedom. He said in a crowd, “Do not ever enter the homes of journalists again, we do not have tanks and guns like you, but we can tell people of Pakistan about the stories that emerge from inside your homes.”
On Monday, Mir said that he was pulled out from Geo TV. It has never happened since 2007 when the military leader at that time declared the state of emergency and suspended the constitution.
Mir’s tweet on Thursday mentioned how threats to the Press have only increased in recent years. In 2020, a record of 274 journalists was unjustly imprisoned.”
Threats to press freedom have increased a lot in recent years. In 2020, a record 274 journalists were unjustly imprisoned, @Joelcpj is always a strong voice against threats to press freedom his departure from CPJ is a sad news hope @pressfreedom will find a good replacement https://t.co/LCSJ7e1fHY
— Hamid Mir (@HamidMirPAK) June 9, 2021
The Pakistani authorities have denied all the allegations and said that Toor staged the attack to seek political asylum abroad.
Hence, the Federal Investigation Agency on Thursday accused Toor of defamation of a government institution.
Pakistan is considered to be the fifth most dangerous country in the world for journalists. According to the World Press Freedom Index, it ranks 145th out of 180 of Press freedom.
In Pakistan, the profession of journalism can be sometimes a death sentence. Between 2013 and 2019, Freedom Network found out that 33 journalists were killed in Pakistan.
The Pakistani government uses the 2016 cybercrime law as a pretext to ban anti-government criticisms online. However, a new law is to be introduced to increase the authority of the state over Press and online content.
Hence, Press freedom laws will be repealed, the government would be able to summon any journalist for investigation, and broadcasting over YouTube would not be allowed without a license.
Senior journalist, Imtiaz Alam in an interview, said that under the constitution, neither the civil institutions nor military institutions have a role in politics.
Shahzada Zulfiqar, President of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists, describes the new regulation as “media martial law. We are entering the worst and darkest era of media freedom. In this era, there is a lack of safety for journalists both in their career and in their life.”
Moreover, Huma Yusuf, media analyst, in a column wrote: “What better way to turn media outlets into state mouthpieces than by making them entirely reliant on the government to stay in business?”