Press freedom: myth and reality

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Press freedom: myth and reality

In a meeting between the minister of state for information, Marriyum Aurangzeb, and representatives of the All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS), the minister once again reiterated the belief of the present government in the fundamental and constitutional right of freedom of expression. Aurangzeb assured the APNS delegation that the PML-N government would continue to facilitate the growth of free and responsible media in the country. She also said that the government was making all possible efforts to create a congenial atmosphere for media personnel so that they could perform their obligations in accordance with their professional ethos. Aurangzeb also said that an independent media is a part of democracy and the government acknowledges the role of media as a watchdog of society. The minister told the delegation that the government was finalising a bill for the safety and protection of journalists across the country.

While these are all noble words and indeed reflect positively on the government, in many ways it does not reflect the on-ground situation in the country which seems to speak the opposite. The government may have good intentions but it is not following them through when it comes to the safety of journalists. Pakistan remains one of the most dangerous countries in the world to be a journalist. A number of journalists have been killed, wounded or threatened in the course of their duties. Some have been beaten up or kidnapped in broad daylight. At the same time, the number of persons arrested by the police for these acts against the media is sadly very low. It seems that the law enforcement authorities are not interested in pursuing those cases where journalists are targeted with the result that hundreds of such cases today lie in cold storage. This culture of impunity continues to threaten the work of journalists all over the country. Unless the government makes a serious effort at investigating attacks on the media and bringing to book those responsible for these, any legislation that the government is proposing for the safety of journalists would not have the desired effect.

The Express Tribune