Pakistan’s authorities must take urgent action to protect journalists, bloggers, civil society and other human rights activists who are facing constant harassment, intimidation, threats and violent attacks in the country, Amnesty International said today.
In an open letter to the Interior Minister, Nisar Ali Khan, the human rights organization highlighted how a smear campaign is underway to issue threats against dissenting voices and delegitimize their work in ways that could have grave consequences for their security.
“The work of journalists, bloggers, civil society organizations and human rights defenders is crucial to any free and just society. Their activities are not just protected under Pakistan’s obligations under international law, but also under Pakistan’s constitution,” wrote David Griffiths, Amnesty International’s Senior Advisor on South Asia.
The letter cited the example of shows on Bol Television, including ‘Aisay Nahi Chalay Ga’, that have attacked prominent human rights defenders and journalists, triggering death threats “that the Pakistani government must not ignore.”
Amnesty International’s concerns are based on its extensive documentation of cases in Pakistan over recent decades where accusations of blasphemy and other smear campaigns have led to threats, attacks, and even the killings of journalists and human rights defenders.
“The authorities should take decisive actions to create a safe and enabling environment in which it is possible to defend and promote human rights without fear of punishment, reprisal or intimidation,” David Griffiths wrote.