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Restriction on free speech undermines Pakistan's image, its ability to progress, says US

"Pakistan fell 12 points on [the] Press Freedom Index during [the] last year of Imran Khan's government and 18 points during his tenure. It not only earned him [the] shameful title of 'press freedom predator' but also placed our democracy in [a] bad light," PM Sharif said in a tweet.  

May 04, 2022
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US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken

The United States government is aware of restrictions on media outlets and civil society, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said, adding that these curbs undermine the country’s image and its ability to progress. The remark came after Pakistan slipped to 157th place, from last year’s 145th, in the World Press Freedom Index.

Responding to media queries, Blinken said, “We take this (the issue of threats to journalists) up in our engagements with Pakistani counterparts….this is also a feature of the annual Human Rights Reports that we put out, and, of course, we’re aware of significant restrictions on media outlets and civil society more broadly in Pakistan.”

Pakistan this year has fallen 12 points—and ranks below Taliban-ruled Afghanistan—on the Press Freedom Score released by Reporters Without Borders. In the ranking, India has fallen to 150th position, registering a drop of eight points from 142 in 2021, Nepal at 76th position, a huge jump of 30 points, and Sri Lanka at 146, Bangladesh at 162.

On Tuesday, Blinken said that a vibrant and free press and informed citizenry were important for any nation and its future, including Pakistan.

Shehbaz Sharif, who became Pakistan’s prime minister last month, on Wednesday criticised his predecessor, Imran Khan, holding him responsible for the downfall in the ranking.

"Pakistan fell 12 points on [the] Press Freedom Index during [the] last year of Imran Khan's government and 18 points during his tenure. It not only earned him [the] shameful title of 'press freedom predator' but also placed our democracy in [a] bad light," PM Sharif said in a tweet.  

The Pakistan government, he added, is “fully committed" to ensuring free speech and press freedom. 

In a press conference after the release of the ranking, Blinken said that restrictions and curbs undermined “Pakistan’s image as well as its “ability” to progress. “So it is something that comes up both in our direct engagements and in the work that we’re doing every day," he added.

(SAM)

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