The annual Pakistan Press Freedom Report, prepared by the media rights watchdog Freedom Network, showed that Islamabad was the riskiest place to practise journalism in Pakistan, as 56, or 40pc, violations took place in the city.
Punjab was the second worst, with 35 (25pc) cases of violations, followed by 32 (23pc) cases in Sindh.
The report, released ahead of the World Press Freedom Day celebrated on May 3, noted that the country’s media environment became riskier and more violent in recent months, as the number of attacks surged 63pc to 140 between May 2022 and March 2023 from 86 in 2021-22.
Islamabad emerges as riskiest place with 56 of 140 cases
The report also documented the killings of at least five journalists in Pakistan in the period under review.
“The escalation in violence against journalists is disturbing and demands urgent attention,” said Iqbal Khattak, the executive director of Freedom Network, which tracks press freedom violations around the year and publishes the annual report.
“Attacks on independent journalism block access to essential information, which is especially damaging during the ongoing political and economic crises when the public needs reliable news to understand the issues and respond to them,” he said.
“It is ironic that Pakistan in 2021 became the first country in Asia to legislate on the safety of journalists, but one and a half years later, the federal and Sindh journalists’ safety laws have not helped a single journalist resulting in increasing violence against them,” Mr Khattak said.
In a statement, he said Freedom Network urged Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif to urgently fulfil his promise made at an international conference in Islamabad on Nov 2, 2022, marking the international day to combat impunity of crimes against journalists, to notify the safety commission required under the Protection of Journalists and Media Professionals Act, 2021 so the law passed with bipartisan support by parliament can start helping journalists. The commission’s absence continues to promote impunity of crimes against journalists.
He also urged Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah to equip its notified provincial safety commission under the Sindh Protection of Journalists and Other Media Practitioners Act 2021 with resources so that it could help journalists and empower them to combat the impunity of crimes against them in the province.
One violation every two days
The 140 attacks against journalists in the 11-month period in Pakistan showed that there were 13 cases a month, or a press freedom violation almost every other day.