U.S says restrictions on freedom of speech undermine Pakistan’s image

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The United States government is aware of the curbs on media outlets and civil society in Pakistan and such restrictions on freedom of speech undermine the country’s image, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on World Press Freedom day.

A Pakistani journalist affiliated with ARY News asked the senior US official during the press brief that “Pakistan remains among those countries in the world considered the most dangerous place for journalists. Last year, many journalists were killed, kidnapped, and tortured for exposing crime and corruption and criticising some of the government policies. Has the State Department ever taken up this issue in bilateral talks with Pakistani authorities?”

“The short answer is yes. We take this up in our engagements with Pakistani counterparts,” Blinken replied.

“Of course, this is also a feature of the annual Human Rights Reports that we put out, and, of course, we’re aware of significant restrictions on media outlets and civil society more broadly in Pakistan,” he further said.

As per the World Press Freedom Index, the  Pakistan has fallen 12 points on the press freedom score in one year and now ranks even below Afghanistan, which is ruled by the Taliban.

World Press Freedom Index is released every year by Reporters Sans Frontiers (RSF) which is also known as the Reporters Without Borders. The report issued on Tuesday said, Pakistan also ranks below India, Sri Lanka, and Nepal but above Bangladesh, China and Iran.

The US Secretary of State on Tuesday said that a vibrant and free press and informed citizenry were important for any nation and its future, including Pakistan. He went on saying that these practices of curbing free media undermined freedom of expression. “They undermine peaceful assembly. They undermine Pakistan’s image as well as its ability to progress. So it is something that comes up both in our direct engagements and in the work that we’re doing every day,” he added.

The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) on the World Press Freedom Day, urged that the government should immediately create an environment for freedom of the press initiating a dialogue with stakeholders to devise a strategy that could protect the freedom of the press in the country.

According to a research report by Freedom Network, an award-winning organization working for the rights of journalists in Pakistan, between May 2021 and April 2022, eighty six incidents of attacks and violations on media and journalists in the country were reported.

The Freedom Network’s research and analysis report reveals that a dramatic increase in repression of journalists was witnessed during the the former government in the country, where the state elements continued to be the biggest threat, resulting in violence, lawsuits, kidnappings, detentions and threats.

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