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Freedom of press

Freedom House has released the Freedom on the Net report 2017 which ranks Pakistan “Not Free” for the sixth consecutive year and Pakistan has been categorised among countries where the press is not free. Pakistan Internet Freedom Status for the year 2017 has also worsened in comparison to 2016. According to the report, Freedom House and Digital Rights Foundation assesses internet freedom in 65 countries, accounting for 87 percent of internet users worldwide. The report primarily focuses on developments that occurred between June 2016 and May 2017. According to the report, mobile internet service was shut down for more than a year in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, starting in June 2016. The most significant shutdown, affecting 3G mobile internet in ATA began on June 12, 2016, following an exchange of fire between local and Afghan forces during the construction of a gate on the Pakistan- Afghanistan border. No official reason was given for the disruption, and service had yet to b restored more than a year later.
The Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act enacted in August 2016 introduced stronger censorship and surveillance powers with inadequate oversight.
The report stated that Internet penetration was limited in Pakistan by a lack of resources and infrastructure, but mobile internet access was increasing following the recent launch of faster 3G and 4G service. However, Pakistani authorities frequently disable mobile internet access during times of perceived political or religious sensitivity.
US based Internet Monitor research project reported that Pakistan “blocks news and human rights websites and content critical of the faith of Islam,” as well as sex and nudity, and tools used to circumvent censorship or protect privacy.
Pakistan had ranked 139 out of 180 countries on the World Press Freedom Index 2017 compiled by Reporters Without Borders, placing it among the world’s most dangerous countries for journalists. In the last 15 years, at least 117 journalists have been killed, while only three cases were taken up in judicial courts. It is unfortunate that the situation regarding press freedom in Pakistan is worsening and against to democratic standards. Such incidents not only give bad name to the country at international level but also shake the image of the country. The democracy cannot progress without freedom of expression.
The federal government needs to deliver on this front and do more to protect the press. Media organizations and journalists’ rights bodies needs to evolve comprehensive strategy to ensure protection of working journalists and to ensure freedom of press.

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