Media Closures an Attempt to Stifle Government Criticism in Pakistan | Freedom House

Media Closures an Attempt to Stifle Government Criticism in Pakistan

Washington

Washington – August 10, 2010 –
 
The recent closure of independent television stations and burning of newspapers in Pakistan signals continued intolerance by the Pakistani government to criticism and a blow to press freedom, according to Freedom House.
 
The closures occurred after several independent television stations reported on a protestor who threw a shoe at President Asif Ali Zardari during a press event in the United Kingdom. GEO TV and ARY News were reportedly taken off the air on August 8, and activists from the ruling Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) have attacked some stations and burned copies of newspapers.
 
“Despite significant improvements in press freedom in Pakistan over the last couple of years, the Zardari administration has a history of intolerance to criticism,” said Paula Schriefer, advocacy director of Freedom House. “These are the kinds of actions we would expect from the previous military regime, not an elected, civilian government.”
 
Conditions for the media improved following the election of a civilian government in February 2008, but the suspension of private broadcasts has been used repeatedly by the new government on a number of occasions since then. In 2009, several television stations were shut down a number of times, including amidst demonstrations against Zardari in March and for several hours after a terrorist attack on army headquarters in October. Additionally, the government has removed video deemed unflattering to Zardari and other leading politicians on YouTube and other video-sharing sites, causing concern that Pakistan will broaden its censorship to the internet. Activists in the country report that SMS services are already being disrupted.
 
“In addition to the obvious restriction these closures place on free expression, they also disrupt the free flow of information to citizens, which could have devastating consequences during a crisis such as the floods occurring in the country now,” said Karin Karlekar, managing editor of Freedom of the Press, Freedom House’s annual survey of global press freedom.
 
Pakistan is ranked Partly Free in Freedom in the World 2010, Freedom House's survey of political rights and civil liberties, and Not Free in Freedom of the Press 2010.
For more information on Pakistan, visit:
 

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Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.

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