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Pakistan’s Press Freedom Slips in 2024 World Press Freedom Index Amid Ongoing Challenges

The 2024 World Press Freedom Index, recently published by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), reveals a concerning development for Pakistan, as the country has slipped two places, now ranking 152 out of 180 countries, compared to its position at 150 in the previous year’s index.

RSF’s comprehensive analysis of Pakistan’s media landscape paints a nuanced picture of its challenges and complexities. Since its inception in 1947, Pakistan has grappled with a delicate balance between civil society’s aspirations for press freedom and the enduring dominance of the political-military elite over the media.

Despite notable diversification since the termination of the state monopoly on broadcasting in 2002, significant obstacles persist, particularly the financial dependence of privately owned media on government advertisements. This reliance often results in self-censorship and compromises editorial independence, posing formidable challenges to a free and vibrant press.

Pakistan’s status as one of the most perilous countries for journalists is of grave concern, as highlighted by the RSF index. Targeted attacks against journalists, frequently linked to cases of corruption or illegal activities, are alarmingly common, with perpetrators enjoying near-impunity. The Pakistan Press Freedom Report, released by the Freedom Network, corroborates these findings, documenting over a hundred instances of violations against journalists and media practitioners, ranging from murders and physical assaults to kidnappings and legal harassment.

In contrast, neighboring India has experienced a slight improvement in its ranking, moving up two places to 159. However, RSF’s assessment underscores the persistent challenges faced by the Indian media landscape, characterized by an “unofficial state of emergency” since Narendra Modi assumed office in 2014, contributing to the erosion of press freedom.

While Pakistan’s President and Prime Minister have emphasized the importance of press freedom and pledged to create an enabling environment for journalists, the RSF report serves as a sobering reminder of the critical challenges confronting media freedom in the country. It underscores the urgent need for concerted efforts to safeguard journalists’ safety, uphold editorial independence, and preserve the fundamental principles of press freedom in Pakistan’s democratic discourse.

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