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Press censorship continues unabated in Pakistan under Imran Khan

File photo: Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan. Photograph:( AFP )

WION New Delhi, Delhi, India Jul 09, 2019, 09.14 PM (IST) Written By: Anas Mallick

In Pakistan, press freedom is an oxymoron. It is surely guaranteed by the country's Constitution, but it doesn't seem to be implemented.

Voices of dissent have been muzzled time and again. Some picked up and tortured, some left to die.

Journalists have also been subjected to inquiries and their basic rights being taken away after being put on the exit control list. During the 1970s, when the then military dictator Zia-ul-Haq took over, journalists were arrested, whiplashed or faced treason cases. Their families were harassed but later let go.

Similarly, during the era of the former military dictator General Pervez Musharraf, when Emergency was imposed on November 3, 2007, the media was blacked out.

A blanket ban was put on media continuously for 111 days, regardless of their editorial stands.

Nearly 12 years on, not much has changed. In Imran Khan's 'Naya Pakistan', there is no room for criticism or dissent.

Last week, the interview of former Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari was put off air under mysterious circumstances.

That wasn't the end. At least three television channels were taken off air and removed from cable services. What was common to the three was the fact that they had extensively covered the Opposition party Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz's (PML-N) rally, led by Maryam Nawaz, the daughter of jailed former prime minister Nawaz Sharif.

Observers say what makes the latest episodes of censorship different is the way they have been executed.

Earlier, there were instances of journalists' families being harassed but now the pressure is exerted on the organisations to let go of journalists who are seen to be critical.

The latest harassment tool is social media. Very recently, a Twitter trend with the hashtag #arrestantipakjournalists targeted journalists who were critical of the Imran Khan government.

Earlier, reporting against the powerful military was a self-imposed no-go area.

What has changed now is the extent of the no-go area. Criticism of the government is certainly included in the list of untouchable subjects.

So, is Pakistan's democratically elected government giving any freedom to the press? For the moment, the answer is no.