Islamabad [Pakistan], April 1 (ANI): Pakistan has performed poorly with respect to legal protections for the right to freedom of expression of its citizens during 2020, according to a new assessment report published by the Media Matters for Democracy.
According to The News International, the Pakistan Freedom of Expression Report 2020 was launched through a webinar on Wednesday.
Speaking at the report launch, the European Union (EU) Ambassador to Pakistan, Androulla Kaminara, said: "Today's report provides a comprehensive analysis of the state of freedom of expression in Pakistan and highlights some concerning trends. Freedom of Expression is enshrined in the European Charter of Fundamental Rights. It is also one of the important aspects of Pakistan's GSP plus commitment to uphold the international Human Rights Conventions and a key priority in the Strategic Engagement Plan between EU and Pakistan."
The ambassador added: "As this report confirms, the situation of journalists and documentation of threats they face through attacks, intimidation and harassment is particularly concerning. Disinformation is another area of concern, and one, which the European Union is working to address both at home and abroad. Misleading or false information can put lives in danger. It is crucial to resolutely counter disinformation with transparent, timely and fact-based communication and thus reinforce the resilience of societies."
The News International reported that Pakistan scored low on all six dimensions to provide an overall score of only 30 points out of a total of 100 points on the assessment index. This cumulative score fell in the range of "poor" protections for freedom of expression in the country.
The report found that during the year 2020 Pakistan's media and Internet regulatory authorities continued to exert arbitrary legal and regulatory restrictions on speech and online content, by ordering bans, suspensions, and advisories against social media apps, entertainment content, and news discussions of social and political issues.
According to the study, journalists remained vulnerable to physical, legal, and digital threats in the absence of long-awaited legislation on journalists' safety.
At least eight individuals connected with the media were killed, at least 36 journalists were attacked in the line of duty, 10 were arrested, and as many as 23 instances of arbitrary detentions in connection with news reporting and online expression were recorded across Pakistan during the year, as per the report.
It also noted that women journalists were especially targeted with coordinated online attacks as they reported on political issues and the government's pandemic response.
Online space for dissent and freedom of expression has shrunk in Pakistan, while hate speech and digital surveillance has increased, informed a press statement from the Freedom Network group in October.
Pakistan has for several years continued a poor track record on press freedom. The 2020 world press freedom index compiled by Reporters Without Borders has reported that Pakistan slipped six spots since 2017 to 145th place out of 180 countries.
The New York Times reported that in the last five years, as many as 11 journalists have been killed in Pakistan, seven of them since Imran Khan became the Prime Minister. (ANI)