Pak media in danger zone


The media serves as a bridge among the three pillars of the state, and its role is in nation-building, but in Pakistan, it is considered as a red rag to the establishment. Pakistan has invariably used the media as a propaganda tool for political and military purposes.

The successive governments in Pakistan have tried to cage the media. It started during Gen. Ayub Khan’s regime when he promulgated The Press and Publication Ordinance (PPO) in 1962 to control and cage the media. And Gen. Zia-ul-Haq, promulgated the Revised Press and Publication Ordinance (RPPO) in 1980, the media and journalists met with the worst kind of treatment; torture, jails. During the Nawaz Sharif rule, there was a severe tug of war between the government and the Jang group over testing of the state vs media authority, as both tried to undermine the other. Later, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, also promulgated the Press Council of Pakistan Ordinance (PCPO) in 2002. Again in 2007, media was suppressed and several private channels were put off the air and some anchors of current affairs programs were barred from conducting their talk shows; it was due to criticism of the government’s internal or external policies, especially against Gen. Musharraf by the media.

Pakistan’s government is tightening its control of media with laws to censor and punish journalists. New laws potentially extend control to social media such as YouTube and Twitter, snuffing out investigative journalism and critical commentary. The army and the ISI are the principal drivers of this crackdown, seeking to eradicate any criticism of their heavy-handed power grab over state institutions, as well as of military involvement in a wide range of licit and illicit businesses, including property and drugs. According to the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), Pakistan is the fifth most dangerous country for journalists to practice their profession

Pakistan has a hybrid system, which is tilted very much in favor of the military. Essentially, the military takes all the major decisions on security, terrorism, foreign relations, the economy, what can be debated, what can’t-on almost everything. Pakistani journalists say the country’s “hybrid” civilian-military establishment is behind many of the recent attacks on journalists and has effectively silenced coverage that does not portray the army and the ISI in a positive light. Without free media, they say, Pakistan’s democracy is being driven toward a military dictatorship. Ahmed Rashid, a Lahore-based journalist who has written several books on Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Central Asia, says the army is now the dominant force in Pakistani politics. The role of the military is much more important than the role of the civilian government. Violence against journalists is a routine problem in Pakistan. Particularly, in conflict areas of Khyber Phaktunkhwa Province, North and South Waziristan, Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), and Baluchistan Province are hotspots of journalists’ killing and kidnapping. But they also face risks in the major cities including Karachi, Islamabad, Lahore, Peshawar, and Quetta.

After the murder of journalist Arshad Sharif in Kenya on Oct 23, 2022, the Freedom Network (FN) Pakistan, a national media watchdog released a report on 27 October 2022 where it is revealed that between 2012 and 2022 at least 53 journalists from various media were murdered in Pakistan. But the perpetrators were convicted in only two out of these 53 murder cases. In the remaining 96% of the cases, the criminal justice system hopelessly failed to deliver justice for the slain journalists and their bereaved families.

Pakistan’s Impunity Stats 2012 to 2022

  • Journalists murdered: 53
  • FIRs registered: 40 (94% of the murders)
  • Police challan (charge-sheets filed in courts) 31 (62% of all FIRs)
  • Cases declared fit for trial by the court: 26 (84% of all charge sheets)
  • Prosecution and trial completed: 12 (46% of all trials)Killers convicted: 2 (4% of all murders)
  • Impunity for killers: 51 (96% of all murders)

There is a very limited scope of safety for journalists in Pakistan because journalists experience diverse safety threats that affect their physical, psychological, financial, legal, social, and emotional state. Pakistan’s public and media organizations are emerging sources of threats, in addition to militants, government, political parties, intelligence agencies, and religious organizations. According to media reports, Pakistan’s legal system and judicial framework are also too weak to provide protection to journalists and counter the country’s culture of impunity The working women journalists in Pakistan function in a precarious environment. Mainly they face a strong gender-bias that prevails in Pakistan. They are assigned “soft” stories like “nature, weather, health”, whereas they are still considered to be incompetent to cover politics, sports, crime, and the economy. The data also shows that less than 5% of the estimated 20,000 Pakistani journalists are