Pakistan

Breaking Barriers: Pakistan’s Strive for Press Freedom and a Positive Shift in Rankings

Pakistan has made significant progress in improving its World Press Freedom Index ranking. This development marks a positive step towards greater freedom of expression. Here is a breakdown of the situation:

World Press Freedom Index Ranking

The World Press Freedom Index is an annual report published by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) that evaluates the state of press freedom in countries worldwide. The index ranks countries based on a 100, with higher scores indicating greater press freedom. Pakistan now ranks 150 out of 180 countries, scoring 39.95 compared to 37.99 last year. This marks a seven-place improvement in the country’s ranking.

Evaluation Criteria

The report evaluates each country or territory’s score using five contextual indicators: political context, legal framework, economic context, sociocultural context, and safety. The higher the score, the more favourable the environment is for journalists and media outlets to operate independently and without interference.

Reasons for Improvement

Pakistan’s improved ranking results from positive developments, including the recent passage of a new media law that provides greater protections for journalists and establishes an independent regulatory body for the media industry. Additionally, the government has taken steps to address cases of violence and harassment against journalists and has created a fund to support journalists facing financial difficulties.

The new media law has several key provisions that safeguard press freedom. These include establishing a Media Complaints Commission, which provides a platform for journalists to file complaints against media organizations or individuals who violate ethical standards or engage in censorship. The law also mandates that the government cannot interfere with media content or newsroom operations except under certain circumstances. This means journalists and media outlets can report on sensitive topics and hold the government accountable without fear of reprisal.

Another significant development has been the creation of a Journalist Welfare Fund, which provides financial assistance to journalists facing economic difficulties. This is an important step towards protecting the rights of journalists, who are often underpaid and undervalued in Pakistan.

Remaining Challenges

Despite these positive developments, challenges remain. Media watchdog Freedom Network said in its annual ‘Pakistan Press Freedom Report’ released last week that violations rose by over 60% in Pakistan from May 2022 to March 2023. These violations include censorship, harassment, and physical attacks on journalists, indicating that there is still a long way to go in ensuring greater press freedom in the country.

Journalists and media outlets continue to face threats and intimidation, particularly in conflict zones and areas where extremist groups are active. The government must take concrete steps to address these issues and protect journalists from harm.

Conclusion

Pakistan’s improved ranking on the World Press Freedom Index is a step in the right direction towards greater press freedom and freedom of expression. But there is still a lot of work to be done. The country must prioritize press freedom and ensure journalists can operate independently without fear of reprisal.

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