Stifling press freedom

Despite huge strides, press freedom has been on a decline in Pakistan in recent years. We are still regarded as one of the most dangerous countries in the world for a journalist due to various incidents of violence, threats and intimidation.
A similar incident occurred when a noted journalist was abducted from an upscale area of Islamabad in broad daylight. Matiullah Jan was facing a contempt of court case for remarks against the judiciary but the judge said that a tweet was not enough to tarnish the image of the superior courts. Yet, it seems that’s rogue elements that work with impunity attempted to intimidate him.
The incident was caught on CCTV and there could be no denial. The government was forced to admit his kidnapping and they were making efforts to retrieve him. The Islamabad High Court ordered to present him within a day and he was released overnight amid intense pressure by the journalistic community.
The incident shows the fragile state of democracy that we live in. Journalists have said that freedom of speech and expression has been waning since previous regimes; the only difference is that it is more settled. There is immense self-censorship being practiced in media newsrooms which affect media integrity and journalistic values.
According to a report by Freedom Network, Islamabad is the most dangerous place to practice journalism. In fact, no place in the country is safe for media practitioners. This has weakened the country’s image abroad, reduce trust in democracy, and we are in the list of countries where media is suppressed and dissent is not tolerated.
The government, however, believes otherwise and has denied curbing the freedom of the press. The prime minister has said the media is not just free in Pakistan but is rather out of control. Instead, the government has hinted at more media regulation to reign in the media. These are attempts to make the media subservient and can have adverse consequences.
Freedom of the speech, expression and an independent press are the hallmarks of a democratic country. The use of threats, intimidation or violence against journalists will not serve any purpose but stifle dissent and reduce media freedom. The government and state functionaries should rather work to strengthen media, the fifth pillar of democracy, not suppress it.
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