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PM Shehbaz Sharif blames Imran Khan’s govt for declining press freedom

Pakistan has been ranked 157 in press freedom index. Source: FILE. 

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has blamed the previous government  of Imran Khan for the declining press freedom in the country, saying it has placed democracy in a bad light.

In a statement on Twitter, the prime minister said that on Press Freedom Index, Pakistan fell by 12 points in the last years of Imran Khan’s government and by 18 points during his whole tenure.

“It not only earned him shameful title of “press freedom predator” but also placed our democracy in bad light,” the prime minister remarked. He said his government was fully committed to freedom of press and speech.

In its latest index of 180 countries, the Reporters Without Borders, an international non-governmental organization working to safeguard the right to information, has placed Pakistan at 157, compared to 145 in 2021 and 139 in 2018, when Imran Khan had assumed the office.

The country also ranks below India, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Afghanistan but above Bangladesh, Iran and China. The top slot remained with Norway for a sixth consecutive year, followed by other Scandinavian countries, while the lowest ranking was given to North Korea.

The international watchdog takes several factors into account to calculate the press freedom score in a country or territory from 180 jurisdictions. A score of less than 40 indicates that press freedom faces “very serious” danger while scores between 40 and 55 show that journalists face difficulty in performing their work. Any score between 55 and 70 denotes a “problematic” situation.

The index shows that Pakistan was ranked 157 with a 37.99 score after falling 12 points from the previous year when the RSF ranked it at 145 with a 53.14 score.

Detailed analysis shows that Pakistani journalists faced increasing threats in January-December 2021 with the country ranking 168 on the security indicator with a 17.45 score. The economic and political indicators also flashed red with 31.92 and 39.57 scores, respectively.

Afghanistan, which was taken over by the Taliban in August 2021, ranked 156 (score 38.27) on the latest index after falling several points from 122 (score 59.81) in the previous year.

Indian journalists have faced threats from nationalists, especially BJP supporters in recent years. Hence, the country continues to drop on the press freedom index. In the latest edition, the country has been ranked 150 with a 41 score after losing two points.

The RSF in its report has said that unregulated online content spread disinformation and propaganda that have amplified political divisions worldwide, fanned international tensions and even contributed to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

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