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Pakistani group of journalists pledge to fight for press freedom

ISLAMABAD (AP) – The media face increasing censorship, attacks and harassment in Pakistan that threatens press freedom, a committee of journalists said on Monday.

The government said there were no restrictions on journalists in the country.

But Pakistan has long been a dangerous place for journalists. There were 148 documented attacks or violations against journalists in Pakistan between May 2020 and April 2021 – an increase from previous years, according to The Dawn, the country’s English-language newspaper. He said those incidents included six murders, seven attempted assassinations, five kidnappings, 25 arrests or detentions of journalists, 15 assaults and 27 court cases against journalists.

In an op-ed to mark World Press Freedom Day, the newspaper said the space for journalists in Pakistan was shrinking, and “a chained media cannot hold the powerful to account and serve the interest. public as it is supposed to ”.

Pakistan has long been a deadly place for journalists. In 2020, it ranked ninth on the Committee to Protect Journalists’ annual Global Impunity Index, which assesses countries where journalists are routinely murdered and their killers are released. Bangladesh, Russia and India are ahead of Pakistan, according to CPJ. Although the Pakistani government claims it supports free speech, human rights activists often accuse the Pakistani military and its agencies of harassing and attacking journalists.

On Monday, Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists President Shahzada Zulfiqar and Secretary General Nasir Zaidi said press freedom was their hallmark and that they “would not give up on this cause at any cost.” They said journalists were also facing pay cuts and thousands of people had become unemployed.

Mazhar Abbas, who reports often for independent Pakistani television station Geo Television, told The Associated Press that media restrictions and attacks on journalists have increased in recent years. So far, he said, it is not known whether the state has punished those linked to the kidnapping or harassment of journalists.

He said the country’s media regulator has published more than 12,000 advisories to the media, newspapers and news stations. Abbas said the Pakistani media faces censorship in which the state uses different tactics, including telling the media through the media regulator what can be reported and what cannot be reported. ‘to be. News channels are taken off the air by the media regulator if press advice is not followed, he said.

However, Fawad Chaudhry, Minister of Information of Pakistan, said in a statement that the Pakistani government regards press freedom as a “fundamental, democratic and constitutional right”.

He did not respond to the allegations of the leaders of the association of journalists.

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