Under the military establishment’s thumb
Pakistani media, which has a long tradition of being very lively, has become a priority target for the country’s “deep state,” a euphemism for the constant manoeuvring by the military and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the main military intelligence agency, to subjugate the civilian executive. The influence of this military “establishment,” which cannot stand independent journalism, has increased dramatically since Imran Khan became prime minister in July 2018. There have been many cases of brazen censorship in which the military have used a number of methods for exercising pressure. Distribution of newspapers, especially the leading daily Dawn, has been interrupted. Media outlets have been threatened with the withdrawal of advertising. The signals of TV channels that gave airtime to opposition representatives have been jammed. Journalists who dared to broach subjects deemed off limits by the military have been subjected to ISI-orchestrated harassment campaigns.
After reining in the traditional media, the establishment has set about purging the Internet and social media of content not to its liking. To that end, the government is trying to step up online “regulation,” by which it clearly means censorship. Journalists meanwhile continue to be at risk in the field, especially in the western provinces of Baluchistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where reporters are caught in the crossfire between the security forces and armed rebels. Four journalists and a blogger were killed in connection with their reporting in 2019. And, as has been the case for at least a decade, there was total impunity for crimes of violence against journalists.
142 in 2019
45.83 in 2019