Wali Ejaz Nekokara
A famous enlightenment writer Voltaire once said that “I may not agree with what you have to say but I will defend to the death your right to say it”. The words of Voltaire depict the importance of freedom of expression.
Freedom of expression provides us with the vista of opportunities to be educated and to shape opinion. People without opinion are people without mind. For shaping opinions, a conducive environment with the right to express is a prerequisite. Freedom of expression is an important indicator to gauge the standard of democracy in a country. There are various sources through which we express ourselves. Media is the most convenient medium of expression whether that is print media, social media, or electronic media. The remarkable achievements in the field of science and technology have bestowed smart gadgets that are connected with media like cell phones.
Owing to its significant importance media is deemed as the fourth pillar of a state. From igniting upheavals to foiling the attempts of rebellion, the role of media is inconceivable. In 2016, a bloody coup attempt was made by a section of army-men in Turkey. Soldiers and tanks took to streets and fighter jets dropped bombs on parliament. Amid this military-led coup attempt, the news through social media disseminated like wild-fire and common citizens along with loyal forces rescued the country from coup attempt. In Turkey’s case, expression with the help of social media saved the country from fourth coup attempt in 95years of country’s history.
Repression of media is the suppression of expression and oppression of expression tarnishes democracy. In Pakistan, Media is facing strict censorship and some people relate it to the eras of dictatorship. According to World press freedom index 2018, Pakistan was standing at 139 out of 180 countries in world ranking. Similarly, in 2019 position declined to 142 and then in 2020, it further declined to 145. Under the stewardship of Imran Khan, Pakistani media is going through brutal censorship. Many journalists claim that their articles are not published due to censorship as Saleem Saafi tweeted a few days ago. Interruption in the distribution of newspapers, banning news channels and forcing anchors to talk on the given script has become rife.
Journalists are not merely being deprived of their profession; they don’t have any security and justice. According to Committee to Protect Journalists a non-profit organization based in Newyork city “61 journalists killed in Pakistan from 1992 to 2020”. Another report titled “From 2013-2019: 100pc impunity for killers, 0pc justice for Pakistan’s 33 murdered journalists, crime and punishment in Pakistan’s journalism world” published by Freedom Network a Pakistan based independent media rights watchdog. This report unveiled startling reality that from 2013 to 2019, 33 journalists lost their lives and not even a single can get justice. This report further mentions a scorecard which presents horrible state of affairs, “During 2013-2019 32 FIRs were registered for the murder of 33 journalists of which police could file challan (Charge sheet) in only 20 cases or just 60pc cases. Out of 33 cases, the courts declared only 20 cases fit for trial of which the prosecution and trial was completed of only six cases or 18pc cases. In these six cases, the killer was convicted in just one case but escaped punishment after successfully overturning the conviction at the appeal stage after which the family of murdered journalists abandoned the pursuit for justice due to lack of resources” this report shows the poor justice system and vulnerability of journalists. The sordid tactics of gagging the voices of people and media are usually applied by state to escape from accountability and to conceal reality for maintaining status-quo.
The journalists are lacking sufficient support by state and common people alike. The Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors published a “Media Freedom Report 2019” in which various issues of journalism were discussed. One important thing mentioned in report was that despite of having specific laws on defamation; journalists are being charged under Anti-Terrorism Act and other criminal acts. Approximately, 60 journalists were booked under Anti-Terrorism Act 1997. Undoubtedly, there is a permanent threat looming over Journalists and media practitioners of being deprived of their professions and life. Under the leadership of Imran Khan, media is becoming paralyzed and society is becoming more and more authoritative. Freedom of expression is a pillar of Democracy and without it society could not be democratic but anything else.
The writer is a student of Politics and International relations at QAU.
Disclaimer: Views expressed in this article are those of the author and Balochistan Voices not necessarily agrees with them.
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