On Press Freedom Day 2021, it is unfortunate to note that the media landscape in Pakistan is under siege, with journalists and new media practitioners living in a constant state of fear, self censorship and facing hostile laws compromising the freedom of press in the country.
The world is living through a raging pandemic, causing havoc in people's social, economic and professional lives. Pakistan is equally affected as many other countries, however, disinformation and fake news is rife around the pandemic further undermining socio-economic well-being of the citizens.
Bytes for All believes that a lot more is desired from the state authorities, internet corporations and media houses to curtail disinformation and bring to the people ‘’information as public good’’, which is also the theme of this year’s World Press Freedom Day.
In Pakistan, while mainstream media is in shackles, the new media has thrived during the pandemic. With many more people joining the cyber space and different social media platforms, we have seen a sharp increase in ethnic and religious hate speech that has resulted in an unprecedented number of blasphemy cases. Bytes For All has documented this phenomenon in a research report titled, ‘’Online Hatred Pushing Minorities to the Periphery’’.
With a suppressive legal regime, arbitrary implementation of policies and skewed rule of law, Pakistan’s media online and offline is at the receiving end.
On this day, we urge the government to work on war footings to bring all the stakeholders together and work towards improving press freedom indicators which are seeing terribly downward trends since the last few years.
Press is one of the main vehicles to bring information as public good at the hands of the people, which in turn ensures socio-economic and psycho-social well being of the citizens. After all, improved press freedom ranking will only further strengthen democracy and democratic principles in the country, what our founding fathers envisioned. It will also bring honour and social justice not only to the Pakistani people but Pakistan as a nation among the comity of nations.
Bytes for All wishes everyone a very happy Press Freedom Day!