Pakistani Journalists Face Censorship, Threats

May 4, 2015

Sunday was World Press Freedom Day. Lawrence Pintak, founding dean of The Edward R. Murrow College of Communication at WSU, spent the day in Pakistan, one of the most dangerous places in the world for a journalist.

Lawrence Pintak, founding dean of The Edward R. Murrow College of Communication at WSU.
Credit Courtesy of Lawrence Pintak

Press freedom here is a relative term. There are more than 30 TV news channels, a dozen major English language papers and scores more in Urdu and other local languages. So on the surface, this is a media Paradise. But beneath that surface, lies journalistic Hell.

Fifty-six Pakistani journalists have been killed in the last decade – seven last year alone. A leading anchor was shot three times but survived. Others have been beaten. These are targeted attacks, often involving torture. Journalists are routinely threatened. Sometimes the warnings come by phone, sometimes through intermediaries. And, as the Express Tribune put it in an editorial Sunday, “there is a real menace behind the warnings.”

Pakistan is a nation at war with itself. It’s spillover from Afghanistan and home-grown conflict. Battles between the Army and militants; between religious and ethnic factions; between political parties. Journalists say the threats – and the violence – against them come from every quarter.

Emblematic is a government order to TV stations last week to avoid broadcasting what it vaguely called “hate speech” after the head of a leading political party offended the military.

As TV anchor Mubashir Luqman told a press freedom conference over the weekend, “one cannot objectively report without being confronted with bullets or abuses.”