‘Acts of intimidation’ galore by Pakistan’s military on journalists, says CPJ

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A special report by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has revealed that there has been ‘acts of intimidation’ by Pakistan’s ‘powerful’ military on the country’s journalists.

“As killings of journalists in Pakistan decline so too does press freedom, as the country’s powerful military quietly, but effectively, restricts reporting by barring access, encouraging self-censorship through direct and indirect acts of intimidation, and even allegedly instigating violence against reporters. Journalists who push back or are overly critical of authorities are attacked, threatened, or arrested,” the report’s introduction states.

While traveling to Karachi, Islamabad, Peshawar, Lahore, and Okara, CPJ painted a picture of how the military is deeply rooted ‘in society, as well as the country’s economic and political systems’.

“While the military submits to the formalities of civilian rule, it sees itself as a bulwark against what some view as the chaos of democratic politics. But it remains sensitive to criticism or allegations, such as its apparent support for terrorist groups in neighboring countries, including the Afghan Taliban and Lashkar-e-Taiba, which is accused of staging the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attack,” the report states.

Barring access to regions, calling editors and complaining about their report are a few methods through which the military initiates its crackdown, the report reads.

“The military, intelligence, or military-linked and political groups were the suspected source of fire that resulted in half of the 22 journalist murders in the past decade, according to CPJ research,” the report reveals.

It cites a controversial law, Pakistan Protection Ordinance which allows people to be detained without charge for 90 days, which are used to “retaliate against critical reporting”.

It further noted that the spokesman of the Pakistan armed forces did not answer on the report. “General Ghafoor earlier did not respond to a request for a meeting. A scheduled interview with the then information minister in Islamabad was cancelled at the last minute by the government,” it said.

“With high-profile attacks, like the failed assassination of Geo TV’s Mir, journalists say they are often forced to play it safe by toning down or avoiding controversial but newsworthy stories,” the report says.

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