CPJ calls on Pakistan’s PM to protect press freedom ahead of elections

July 2, 2018

Prime Minister Nasir ul-Mulk
Constitution Avenue, G-5/2,
Islamabad, Pakistan

Sent via email: [email protected]

Dear Prime Minister Nasir ul-Mulk,

The Committee to Protect Journalists, an independent press freedom advocacy organization, shares the hope of Pakistan’s people that the country will witness its third peaceful transfer of power in the July 25 general elections. To assure that these elections are transparent and fair, however, there must be an open media environment that allows Pakistanis to fully enjoy their constitutional right of access to information.

We are concerned that recent events in Pakistan signal that the media is not free to report and we urge your government to take necessary measures to guarantee journalists’ ability to work without fear of intimidation or reprisal.

CPJ has documented a series of worrisome occurrences over the past several months–some of which we included below–that have prevented the free distribution of news or that appear to be aimed at intimidating journalists into silence.

  • Journalist Gul Bukhari was abducted, Asad Kharal was attacked, a break-in robbery took place at Marvi Sirmed’s home, and other members of the media were also threatened.
  • During a press conference, ISPR Director General, Major General Asif Ghafoor, accused journalists of engaging in anti-state activity on their social media accounts.
  • The transmission of Geo TV news programs was arbitrarily blocked by cable operators throughout parts of the country including Karachi, Lahore, and Multan.
  • In many parts of the country, newspaper distributors were under pressure to halt the sales of the Dawn newspaper.

These incidents foster fear among journalists that prevents them from working effectively. The media should not be punished for reporting statements from politicians or political parties, even when they are controversial. We ask that your government to take swift measures to protect the freedom of the press, including:

  • Openly condemning the events mentioned above and reasserting the rights of journalists to freely report the news, including critical topics.
  • Taking whatever legal or administrative measures are needed to guarantee that all news organizations–whether electronic or print–can freely distribute their material.
  • Swiftly investigating and bringing to justice all of those who interfere with the distribution of news or who are behind the attacks on journalists, even when those individuals are associated with the government or state institutions, including the military.
  • Seeking an apology and public retraction of General Ghafoor’s statements.

The atmosphere of intimidation in Pakistan stymies the country’s press corps and undermines the electoral process. Ultimately, this environment of fear will undercut the legitimacy and authority of the new government. We urge you to consider our recommendations to prevent this from occurring and to avoid weakening the electoral process.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Yours sincerely,

Joel Simon
Executive Director
Committee to Protect Journalists