South Asian Insider
Pakistan: Imran Khan's government is 'muffling critical voices'
In an interview with DW, Harris Khalique, secretary-general of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, said that PM Imran Khan's government is undermining the supremacy of parliament and democratic norms. (News Agencies) DW: Local and international media organizations are critical of Prime Minister Imran Khan's government's handling of the media and the freedom of the press situation in Pakistan. What is the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan's take on it?Harris Khalique: Pakistan witnessed censorship and curbing of the freedom of expression during military dictatorships. However, such restrictions have never been experienced under a political government that claims to be democratically elected. Even if there are questions around the manipulation of the 2018 general elections, the current government can still be seen as a product of a continuous electoral process that was restored in 2008.We believe that the muffling of critical voices and systematic suppression of political dissent under the incumbent government is incomparable with any elected government in the past.How is the incumbent government muzzling the freedom of the press in Pakistan, and how is it different from the tactics used by previous administrations?The current dispensation is not only constraining independent journalists, columnists and writers, it has also put a financial squeeze on media houses by various means. That has resulted in a number of publications going out of print and a large number of media professionals losing their jobs.Interviews of opposition leaders are taken off air in the middle of the broadcasts, anchors on news channels are asked to comply with the official narrative, and op-ed writers are regularly censored. There have been multiple attempts to regulate social media with a view to eliminate any difference of opinion.There are two types of media owners in Pakistan. Those who fall in the first category are traditional media houses run by journalist-cum-owners. They have tried to put up with the pressure as much as they could. The other category is large businesses that entered into media and journalism considering it a lucrative industry, which brings influence and political clout. Those belonging to the second category have been more ruthless when dealing with journalists. However, even those falling into the first category have placed their material interests before ethical journalism. Therefore, professional journalists and those who work in their supporting professions are the worst hit in this situation.
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