Under the military establishment’s thumb

The Pakistani media, which have a long tradition of being very lively, have become a priority target for the country’s “deep state,” a euphemism for the military and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the main military intelligence agency, and the significant degree of control they exercise over 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 one or other of its 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. Several were abducted in 2020 in order to be told: “Stop covering unwelcome stories or your family won’t find you alive.” 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. A new phenomenon is emerging – cyber-harassment campaigns by pro-government or pro-military trolls against journalists, especially women journalists. Reporters meanwhile continue to be at risk in the field, especially in the western provinces of Baluchistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where they are caught in the crossfire between the security forces and armed rebels. Four journalists were killed in 2020 in connection with their reporting, especially investigative reporting on corruption or drug trafficking. And, as has been the case for at least a decade, impunity for crimes of violence against journalists is total.

in the 2021 World Press Freedom Index



145 in 2020

Global score


45.52 in 2020

  • 0
    journalists killed in 2022
  • 0
    citizens journalists killed in 2022
  • 0
    media assistants killed in 2022
Go to the barometre