The ruling party has linking critical coverage by the press to potential “treason” in its latest broadside against the country’s beleaguered media.
The official account of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) fired off over two dozen tweets in English and Urdu late Tuesday, lambasting the press for criticism, saying it can be deemed “Anti-State”.
“Freedom of Expression is beauty of Democracy. Expressing Enemy’s Stance is Not Freedom of speech but treason against its people,” read one tweet. “Media houses & journalists must take care that in their quest for criticism on State, they intentionally or unintentionally do not end up propagating enemy’s stance,” read another, with the hashtag JournalismNotAgenda.
Pakistan routinely ranks among the world’s most dangerous countries for media workers, and reporters have frequently been detained, beaten and even killed for being critical of the government or military. In recent years, the space for dissent has shrunk further, with the government announcing a crackdown on social networks and traditional media houses decrying pressure from authorities that they say has resulted in widespread self-censorship. Media watchdog Reporters Without Borders recently warned of “disturbing dictatorial tendencies” after three Pakistani TV stations were briefly taken off air in what it called “brazen censorship”.
The Committee to Protect Journalists last year warned that the military had “quietly, but effectively, set restrictions on reporting”. The government has defended its record, and last week Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told a media freedom conference in London that there was “no question of gagging” journalists after being challenged on his country’s record.