FREEDOM NETWORK – A Brief Profile
Freedom Network (FN) is an award-winning Pakistan-based independent media and civil liberties organization registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP). It was awarded the French Human Rights Award in 2017 by the Government of France for standing out in defending freedom of expression and human rights agendas in Pakistan.
“To defend and promote civil liberties by championing and assisting an informed society that sees media as a key partner in an open, democratic, pluralist and inclusive Pakistan.”
“To DEFEND and promote freedom of expression; STRENGTHEN safety of journalists, information practitioners and rights activists; FACILITATE media professionalisms including independent digital public interest journalism; and SUPPORT gender mainstreaming and pluralism in media.”
Established in 2013, FN initially began as a voluntary online effort by a group of friends to advocate for safety of journalists but due to overwhelming response from a variety of stakeholders supporting its advocacy, it was registered as a legal entity with its work becoming formalized in line with best practices. Since then Freedom Network has emerged as Pakistan’s premier watchdog on freedom of expression and media professionalism issues through its hard-nosed research, advocacy and capacity building programs.
FN Flagship Publications
FN issues two annual flagship research and analysis reports – “State of Media Freedoms in Pakistan” (on May 3, International Press Freedom Day) and “State of Impunity in Pakistan” (on November 2, International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists). These data-driven research reports are detailed evaluations of curbs on freedom of expression and lack of justice for journalists, information practitioners and rights activists that are widely reported and quoted in national and international media, civil society, academia and policymaking circles.
FN Expertise and Experience – Areas of Focus
FN is focusing on three broad areas of work in a communications landscape where media and civil society interface – the civic space where popular concerns are articulated into public interest narratives. In Pakistan’s context these narratives are often thwarted with state intervention through rights abuses and varying degrees of censorship in its myriad forms. These focus areas of work include the following:
- Promoting safety of journalists, information practitioners and rights defenders
Over 170 journalists in Pakistan have been killed in line of duty and hundreds of others assaulted, injured, arrested, kidnapped and threatened since 2000. Increasingly rights defenders and citizen information practitioners and journalists, including women, are facing intimidation, trolling and threats for their online freedom of expression. FN is managing several initiatives aimed at prevention, protecting and prosecution strategies on safety for journalists, information practitioners and rights defenders. These include:
- Pakistan Journalists Safety Fund (PJSF) – provides legal, medical and financial assistance and temporary relocations in-country to journalists under threat or in duress.
- Safety Hubs Network (SHN) – a network of hubs established at five of Pakistan’s largest press clubs (with over half of the country’s community of 20,000 journalists as their members) that provides training on physical and digital safety, mediation with threat actors and government authorities to pre-empt and prevent threats.
- Pakistan Journalists Safety Coalition (PJSC) – an alliance of media, journalists unions, civil society organizations, rights commissions and political parties – in all four provinces – that advocates for a safer and more enabling environment for freedom of expression and civil liberties, particularly for legislation on safety of journalists and other information practitioners.
- Strengthening Public Interest Journalism – particularly independent digital media
Pakistan’s legacy media – offline newspapers, TV channels and radio stations – have in recent years been losing trust of media consumers for increasingly abandoning public interest journalism in the face of censorship and other political pressures from the state. These consumers have been abandoning legacy media in droves and migrating online. In response, a new ecosystem of independent non-legacy media platforms is emerging in Pakistan’s cyberspace that is increasingly focusing on public interest issues and concerns. FN is supporting this exciting new ecosystem through the following initiatives:
- Digital Media Alliance of Pakistan (DigiMAP) – FN has helped a group of some of Pakistan’s best public interest journalism online platforms establish DigiMAP to formalize themselves into a mission-oriented approach to public interest journalism to build their professionalism and resilience. This is currently a group of 13 indie digital media platforms from across four provinces and Islamabad representing a breathtaking pluralisms of Pakistani socio-political diversities of communities, linguistics, ethnicities and classes including HumSub, NayaDaur and Sujag, the cream of this crop.
- Digital media viability and business sustainability strategies – this includes helping indie digital public interest media research the country’s private and public sector advertisers and facilitate interfacing with them to improve their business solvency issues.
- Strengthening digital public interest journalism mandates and audience outreach – this includes helping indie digital public interest media of Pakistan strengthen their outreach with audiences through enhanced content distribution. FN is helping then engage with global Big Tech companies such as Google, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to expand their content distribution and avoidance of censorial takedown of content based on often frivolous governmental request to Big Tech companies.
- Supporting gender mainstreaming and pluralism in media
Reflecting the patriarchal nature and Islamic majoritarianism of Pakistan’s society and polity, the country’s media is straddled with a male worldview in treatment of coverage of public issues and concerns that majorly excludes pluralist and inclusive perspectives and views. This generally prevents a rights-based, pluralist discourse in media. The online spaces are affording better opportunities for women and religious minorities to narrow the gap in both online journalism spaces and other online civic spaces, but new threats are emerging that may roll back these gains. Organized and sustained efforts are necessary to promote an affirmative and plural cultures in both legacy and online media. FN is seeking to assist this process through the following:
- Gender audit of media development efforts – this entails seeking to conduct gender and pluralism audits of both FN media development programs as well as with its media partners to encourage a diversity-friendly media sphere.
- Promoting diversity and pluralism in media – this entails seeking to promote greater voices, perspectives and public profiles of religious minorities and other marginalized communities, particularly from the margins of society and the periphery regions, in the shape of diversity-friendly public interest journalism and content.
For more specific information about FN’s work, programs and experiences, please contact: