Freedom of the Press
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Press Freedom Score (0 = best, 100 = worst)
Legal Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Political Environment(0 = best, 40 = worst)
Economic Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Pakistani media came under increased pressure from Pervez Musharraf's military regime during 2003. Although the constitution provides for freedom of expression and of the press, it and other laws authorize the government to curb freedom of speech on subjects including the constitution, the armed forces, the judiciary, and religion. Harsh blasphemy laws have also been used to suppress the media; in July, a sub-editor at the daily Frontier Post was convicted of blasphemy and sentenced to life in prison. Islamist groups and thugs hired by feudal landlords continue to harass journalists and attack newspaper offices; unidentified assailants killed Ameer Bux Brohi, a reporter for the Sindhi-language daily Kawish in October. On several occasions, police or security forces also subjected journalists to physical attacks or arbitrary arrest and detention. Foreign journalists experience visa and travel restrictions that can inhibit their scope of reporting; in December, two French journalists were arrested in Karachi and charged with violating these restrictions. While some Pakistani newspapers continue to be among the most outspoken in South Asia, many journalists practice self-censorship, and investigative reporting or direct criticism of the armed forces or judiciary is relatively rare. According to Human Rights Watch, which documented several cases of independent journalists' being pressured to resign from prominent publications or being arrested on charges of sedition and tortured while in custody, military authorities used increasingly aggressive tactics during the year to silence critical journalists. The Web site of an online newspaper established by editor Shaheen Sehbai, who remains in exile after fleeing Pakistan in 2002, has been periodically blocked by Pakistani telecommunications authorities since May. Although restrictions on the ownership of broadcast media were eased in late 2002 and media cross-ownership was allowed in July 2003, most electronic media are state owned and follow the government line. However, several new private TV channels available to cable subscribers provide live news coverage and a wide variety of political viewpoints. Authorities wield some economic influence over the media through the selective allocation of advertising, and both official and private interests reportedly pay for favorable press coverage.