Limitations on freedom of expression harm Pakistan’s image and capacity to progress: US

American Secretary of State Antony Blinken stated that the US administration is aware of limitations on media outlets and society in Pakistan, and that such limits on freedom of expression harm the country’s image and capacity to grow.

“Pakistan is still regarded as one of the world’s most hazardous places for journalists. Many reporters were slain, abducted, and tortured last year for reporting crime and corruption and exposing government policy. Has the State Department ever raised this problem in bilateral discussions with Pakistani officials? “The journalist inquired.

“The quick answer is yes. This is something we discuss with our Pakistani colleagues “Blinken responded.

“Of course, this is also an element of the yearly Human Rights Surveys that we publish, and, of course, we’re aware of considerable constraints on news organizations and society in Pakistan more broadly,” he said.

As per the World Press Freedom Index, Pakistan has dropped 12 points in only one year and now ranks even worse than Afghanistan, which is governed by the Taliban.

Reporters Sans Frontières (RSF), often known as Reporters Without Borders in English, publishes the World Press Freedom Index every year. Pakistan was placed lower than Nepal , Sri Lanka, and India, but higher than China, Iran, and Bangladesh in the study released yesterday.

On Tuesday, US Secretary of State John Kerry stated that a robust and free press, as well as an informed population, are critical for any country and its future, especially Pakistan.

He warned that these actions [of limiting free media] endangered freedom of expression.

“They jeopardise peaceful assembly. They harm both Pakistan’s image and its capacity to prosper. So it ‘s subject that comes up in both our direct interactions and the job we perform every day “He said.

However, on the eve of World Freedom Of press Day, the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) announced its determination to restore the country’s press and speech freedoms, which had declined sharply under the former regime.

The PFUJ asked the present administration to prioritise the safety of free speech and expression, arguing that no government can achieve its objectives without the constitutional rights to free press and expression.

PFUJ leaders stated in a joint statement published on Monday that the Imran Khan-led administration enacted harsh regulations in the form of the Pakistan Media Development Authority (PMDA) and amendments to the Prevention of Electronic Crime Act (PECA) that could have imposed “Martial law on media.”

Such legislation were intended to stifle press freedom and speech, as well as gag the media, they said, but it was a prolonged effort by the PFUJ and civil society that caused the govt to remove the amendment, they added.

“In addition, media personnel were harassed by PTI campaigners, and even female reporters and anchors were harassed and taunted by cabinet officials, which cannot be witnessed in any civilised country,” the statement said.

The administration should immediately establish an atmosphere for press freedom by beginning a conversation with stakeholders to design a plan to defend press freedom in the country, according to the statement.

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