Pakistan drops 12 points on World Press Freedom Index 2022

Screenshot of the cover page of the Freedom Network Annual State of Press Freedom Report 2021-22. Fair use.

Screenshot of the cover page of the Freedom Network Annual State of Press Freedom Report 2021-22. Fair use.

On the occasion of World Press Freedom Day, Pakistan-based independent media and civil liberties organization Freedom Network released a report that revealed that journalists in Pakistan have been targeted mostly by state actors in the past one year (May 2021 to April 2022) during the now ousted Imran Khan government, resulting in violence, legal cases, abductions, detentions and threats. Pakistan also registered a steep decline of 12 points in the World Press Freedom Index 2022.

According to the report,

86 instances of attacks on journalists across Pakistan. The highest number of attacks — 32 — were recorded in the capital territory, Islamabad; Sindh province came in second with 23 attacks on journalists.

The report also mentions the highest number of attacks were carried out on the homes of journalists, while two journalists were killed.

The report also listed that state actors and functionaries targeted journalists in Pakistan the most — 35 cases. The most targeted medium was television (39 cases), followed by print media (35 cases).

A steep decline in the World Press Freedom Index

According to the World Press Freedom Index 2o22 report, Pakistan has dropped 12 points in the index, from a rank of 145 in 2021 to 157 in 2022.

Writer Madiha Afzal documents how Pakistan and a number of South Asian countries rank low in press freedom.

Many on social media highlighted this decline in press freedom in Pakistan.

Journalist Waleed Tariq highlighted the drop:

Motivational speaker Shafique Khan tweeted:

The new Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif also condemned Imran Khan's legacy on Twitter:

The reports are contrary to what former Prime Minister Imran Khan said in his speeches regarding the free press. In one of his statements in September 2021 he said, “Media enjoyed ‘more freedom than ever’ under PTI's govt.” In another statement on March 1, 2022, he blamed a section of media that was critical of his policies for joining hands with the mafia, indirectly pointing towards the other political parties.

However, during the tenure of Imran Khan, female journalists were harassed, threatened and subjected to severe online abuse. In 2020 some female journalists also met the Chairman Pakistan Peoples Party and former Chairman National Assembly Standing Committee on Human Rights Bilawal Bhutto to record their complaint.

Archen Baloch, a journalist from Balochistan tweeted:

You can download the Pakistan Press Freedom report 2021-2022 by Freedom Network from here.

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