As the situation of journalists in Pakistan worsens in the run-up to the general elections, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and several defenders of journalism are launching a crucial appeal to the Pakistani political parties involved in the election campaign to commit to concrete measures in favour of press freedom.
As Pakistan is about to hold general elections and political parties draft new election manifestos to offer voters a package they would like support for as they go to the polls, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and the country’s leading press clubs, national and provincial unions of journalists, and RSF’s Pakistan partner Freedom Network call on mainstream and provincial heads of contesting parties to pen their commitment to defending freedom of expression and protection of journalists in their party manifestos.
Impunity for crimes against journalists and media is very high in Pakistan, which was among the five countries included in a pilot project of the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity. RSF’s Pakistan partner Freedom Network’s Annual Impunity 2022 Report stated that there were “no Convictions in 96% of journalist killings” in the past 10 years.
Such a high percentage of impunity for crimes against media practitioners and assistants is alarming and puts journalists in extreme danger for practising journalism, thus denying citizens of Pakistan their right to know and access information – the two fundamental rights enshrined in the 1973 Constitution of Pakistan, guaranteed by Articles 19 and 19A.
“In the run-up to elections, the ball is now in the court of the political parties as regards defending press freedom, as well as journalistic independence and pluralism, as fundamental guarantees of a functioning democracy. RSF, along with Pakistan’s press clubs, journalists unions and press freedom organisations, call on the leaders of the main political parties to make a concrete commitment to our proposals, starting with the search for legislative guarantees for the protection of journalists and the fight against impunity for crimes of violence against them.”
Traditionally, political parties are strong supporters of freedom of expression and press freedom in Pakistan. Journalistic institutions such as press clubs and unions of journalists remained steadfast in upholding the constitutional rights to freedom of expression, of which journalism is an important tool used to exercise the right.