A monthly report on trends relating to state of journalism and media rights, policies and practices


Media related laws, policies and regulations 

The state of media professionalisms

The state of media economy

Threats and attacks against journalists and information practitioners

Vol. 4, No. 12  December 2023 Edition

Produced by Freedom Network – 

SECTION 1: Media related laws, policies, regulations, mechanisms

  • Freedom of expression (FOE)
  • Right to information (RTI), access to information (ATI)
  • Federal and provincial governments (relevant ministries and departments)
  • Media related regulators (PPC, PEMRA, PTA)
  • Regulatory issues related to print, electronic and digital media

PBC ordinance, others promulgated to ‘fulfill IMF commitments’

Date: December 1, 2023 – Source: Dawn

The president promulgated four ordinances, including the Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation (Amendment) Ordinance 2023, to restructure the manage systems of government institutions in line with the commitment made to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). 

Balochistan grapples with right to know delays

Date: December 1, 2023 – Source: Express Tribune

During a seminar conducted by the Center for Peace and Development Studies (CPDI), speakers emphasized the urgent need for the implementation of the Balochistan Right to Information Act 2021 and the establishment of the Balochistan Information Commission (BIC). 

Polls transparency in question sans online access to lawmakers’ assets

Date: December 3, 2023 – Source: Dawn

As the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) failed to digitize and upload the statements of assets and liabilities filed by the legislators, it is restricting transparency and access to knowledge even about the unrealistic wealth statements filed by provincial and federal lawmakers.

Seeing the battlefield through a soda straw

Date: December 3, 2023 – Source: The News

Freedom of expression and freedom of information are routinely put forward as mandatory props for a democratic society. Known democracies have been found hideously wanting in upholding these values during the conduct of a conflict. 

ETPB employee accused of harassing journalist exercising RTI act

Date: December 10, 2023 – Source: Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Journalist Sadia Mazhar raised concerns regarding alleged harassment by an employee of the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) while seeking information under the Right to Information Act. 

SECTION 2: The state of media professionalisms 

  • Media independence issues
  • Public interest journalism practices and challenges
  • Ethical journalism issues
  • The state of thematic journalism
  • Community-focused media
  • Misinformation / disinformation / fake news

For a vulnerable nation, Pakistan’s climate coverage ‘leaves a lot to be desired’

Date: December 4, 2023 – Source: Dawn

The state of climate reporting in Pakistan remains ad-hoc and event related. Media houses rarely employ specialized climate reporters. This remains a dangerous disconnect in a country that has been unable to exit the top ten bracket of the global climate vulnerability index.

Islamabad High Court directs television channel to broadcast apology to journalist

Date: December 5, 2023 – Source 1: The News, Source 2: Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

The Islamabad High Court (IHC) directed a private television channel to issue an apology and pay Rs50,000 damages to journalist Asma Sherazi for defamatory reporting against her. 

NCSW emphasizes media’s role in curbing violence against women

Date: December 8, 2023 – Source: Dawn

Speaking at a refresher course in Islamabad, the Chairperson of the National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW) Nilofar Bakhtiar said that the role of media and media practioners was vital in curbing violence against women in Pakistan.  

GISN recognizes eight stories from Pakistan in list of top investigative stories of the year

Date: December 11, 2023 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: Global Investigative Journalism Network (GISN)

The Global Investigative Journalism Network (GISN) recognized eight stories from Pakistan in its list of the top investigative stories of the year. The stories included both print and video reports. 

Jang/Geo group defamation case against Imran Khan pending for five years

Date: December 11, 2023 – Source: The News

Additional District and Sessions Judge Syed Mohammad Haroon rejected the request of Imran Khan for pardoning Rs7,000 fines imposed on him for seeking repeated adjournments in a Rs1 billion defamation case filed by the Jang/Geo group five years ago. 

Azad Kashmir government tables defamation law in assembly amid protest by journalists

Date: December 14, 2023 – Source: Dawn

The Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) government tabled a piece of law in the legislative assembly to ‘curb defamation’ in a move opposition and media persons maintained will suppress freedom of expression.  

Professional ethics and stereotypical portrayal of women in media discussed

Date: December 15, 2023 – Source: Dawn

Academics, television channel heads and journalists discussed ways to minimize the stereotypical portrayal of women in the media during an event organized by the Trust for Democratic Education and Accountability in Karachi. 

Khawar Maneka’s allegations spark debate over media coverage of politicians’ private lives

Date: December 15, 2023 – Source: The News

Should the media cover political sex scandals or not? The debate is as old as these scandals are. Despite the ethical, social and legal questions, the media coverage of extramarital affairs of politicians has continued. 

Bad business

Date: December 17, 2023 – Source: Dawn

News media is a profit-driven business. That model, which does not practice journalism in the public interest, creates a less-informed citizenry. It’s why we need to amplify voices calling for public journalism. 

United Kingdom court finds television channel defamed Pakistani singer

Date: December 18, 2023 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: Hum News

A United Kingdom (UK) High Court hearing a defamation claim brought by Pakistani-Canadian singer Meesha Shafi against private channel New Vision TV, the broadcaster of ARY UK, found that the channel had defamed her during a show broadcasted in December 2020.

Songs of slaughter

Date: December 18, 2023 – Source: Dawn

Music has the power to unleash and tame emotions. It also has darker charms that do not soothe, but inflame the beast, making it savage. Hate music is played to whip up supporters in countries entangled in war. 

SECTION 3: The state of media economy 

  • Economic landscape of media industry
  • Impact of Covid-19 on media resilience and sustainability
  • Government and private advertising for media industry
  • Advertising sector and its interface with media industry
  • Business viability and sustainability of media
  • Wages, salaries and arrears of journalists and media practitioners  

Pakistan Railways extends journalist concession cards for two months

Date: December 8, 2023 – Source: Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Pakistan Railways decided to extend the validity of the Journalist Concession Card (JCC) for two months. The card allows registered journalists and media practitioners to avail discounted rates for travel on the state transporter’s services. 

SECTION 4: Threats and attacks against media and information practitioners, including online 

  • Murders and killings
  • Kidnappings and abductions
  • Arrests and detentions
  • Threats – verbal and written
  • Harassment and intimidation – offline and online
  • Surveillance, hacking and data breaches
  • Legal cases for journalism-related work or free speech
  • Impunity of crimes against journalists
  • Censorship

Lahore High Court seeks response from PBA regarding ban on broadcast of Imran Khan’s speeches

Date: December 2, 2023 – Source: Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

The Lahore High Court (LHC) sought a written response from the Pakistan Broadcasters Association (PBA) on a petition filed against the ban on broadcast of speeches by former prime minister Imran Khan. 

Cipher case: ‘Open trial’ of Imran Khan, Shah Mehmood begins in Adiala jail

Date: December 3, 2023 – Source: The News

Local and international journalists, who were present outside Adiala jail’s premises to cover the ‘open trial’ of Imran Khan and Shah Mehmood Qureshi were not allowed to do so as the attendance of the accused were marked before placing an adjournment on the case. 

Freedom Network to work with stakeholders to assist Afghan journalists in Pakistan

Date: December 6, 2023 – Source: Freedom Network (FN)

Freedom Network (FN), in collaboration with Reporters Without Borders (RSF), launched an advocacy campaign and capacity building trainings to help Afghan refugee journalists in Pakistan. 

Federal Investigation Agency court quashes case against journalist

Date: December 6, 2023 – Source: Dawn

The special court of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) acquitted journalist Khalid Jamil in a case registered against him for allegedly ‘sharing and propagating highly intimidating content against state institutions on social media’. 

Kenyan media outlet asserts Pakistani journalist’s killing was ‘not an accident’

Date: December 6, 2023 – Source: Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Kenyan media outlet NTV broadcasted an investigative report asserting that the killing of Pakistani journalist Arshad Sharif near Nairobi was a ‘well-planned murder’, and not an accident. 

PEMRA vows ‘strict action’ against channels for speculative reporting on national polls

Date: December 7, 2023 – Source: Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) issued a directive for all satellite television channels asking them to comply with its code of conduct by ensuring no speculative or false information regarding the general elections was aired or face ‘strict action’. 

RSF seeks global, independent probe into Pakistani journalist’s murder case

Date: December 7, 2023 – Source 1: Reporters Without Borders (RSF), Source 2: Dawn

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) called for an independent international investigation into Pakistani journalist Arshad Sharif’s murder in Kenya after two special United Nations (UN) rapporteurs wrote to the Pakistani and Kenyan authorities deploring their failure to conduct a serious investigation. 

SHC suspends PEMRA directives to television channels on hate speech propagators

Date: December 9, 2023 – Source 1: The News, Source 2: Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

The Sindh High Court (SHC) suspended the directives of the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) issued to television channels for not allowing airtime to individuals who propagate hate speech and provoke public sentiments against the federation and state institutions. 

Supreme Court panel to decide on live telecast of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto reference

Date: December 9, 2023 – Source 1: The News, Source 2: Pakistan Today, Source 3: Daily Times

The Supreme Court of Pakistan (SCP) constituted a two-member committee to decide on the live telecast of a presidential reference filed concerning the murder case of former prime minister Zufiqar Ali Bhutto. 

Sindh government considering demand for head money on journalist’s killers

Date: December 10, 2023 – Source: Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Sindh Caretaker Information and Minority Affairs Minister Ahmed Shah said that the Sindh government was considering the demand by media practitioners to fix head money on the killers of journalist Jan Mohammad Mahar. 

PFUJ hints at launching ‘court arrest’ movement if reporter’s killers are not arrested

Date: December 11, 2023 – Source: Dawn

Leaders of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) hinted at launching a ‘court arrest’ movement in Sindh if murderers of journalist Jan Mohammad Mahar were not brought justice. 

PPP seeks live telecast of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto reference

Date: December 12, 2023 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: Pakistan Today, Source 3: Express Tribune

Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari requested the Supreme Court of Pakistan (SCP) to order the live-streaming of a long-pending presidential reference seeking to revisit the 1979 death sentence awarded to former prime minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. 

Cipher trial coverage banned as hearings deemed in-camera

Date: December 15, 2023 – Source: Dawn

The Special Court (Official Secrets Act) conducting the trial of former prime minister Imran Khan and ex-foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi barred the coverage of its proceedings on all mainstream media outlets, as well as social media. 

Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf to challenge in-camera trial in cipher case

Date: December 16, 2023 – Source: Dawn

The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) decided to challenge the Special Court’s (Official Secrets Act) decision of conducting in-camera trial of ex-premier Imran Khan and foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi in the cipher case, with a resumption of ban on attendance of reporters for media coverage. 

A freedom lost

Date: December 17, 2023 – Source: The News

A scholar at the Academic Freedom Conference observed that a culture of silence had engulfed academia in Pakistan. Diverse perspectives and open dialogue have become a thing of the past as academics and students appear reluctant to engage in critical discourse. 

Lahore High Court directs PEMRA to ensure every party gets level playing field

Date: December 21, 2023 – Source: Dawn

The Lahore High Court (LHC) directed the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) to ensure that level playing field is given to all political parties regarding broadcasting of their content and speeches.

Media bodies decry curbs on journalism, content coverage

Date: December 12, 2023 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: Express Tribune, Source 3: Arab News

The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), Association of Electronic Media Editors and News Editors (AEMEND) and Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors (CPNE) called on the judiciary to intervene against growing censorship and pressure on the media from state institutions. 

Media curbs

Date: December 23, 2023 – Source: Dawn

From military coercion to fatal attacks, journalists in Pakistan have lived through testing times. The current situation, however, is becoming more dystopian, with the media operating under heavy pressure, unannounced censorship and harassment. 

Nothing to report on

Date: December 23, 2023 – Source: The News

Journalism is often called the fourth pillar of democracy. But over the years, efforts have been made to make this important pillar toothless. Censorship, threats, and attempts made to block advertising revenue for media outlets have badly hit press freedom in Pakistan. 

Pakistani student bodies in UK slam ‘censorship, political victimization’

Date: December 25, 2023 – Source: Dawn

Pakistani student societies form some of the United Kingdom’s major universities released a joint statement condemning the ongoing censorship and political victimization in the country. 

Ministry questions president’s discretion related to PCP chairman’s appointment

Date: December 31, 2023 – Source: Dawn

The Ministry of Law and Justice submitted an opinion to the Islamabad High Court (IHC) in the case concerning the appointment of the Press Council of Pakistan (PCP) chairman, questioning the president’s discretion in the matter. 

OBJECTIVESThis series of monthly report aims to:

  • Monitor the state of policies, regulations and mechanisms governing the media sector in Pakistan; the state of freedom of expression and right to information environment in the country and how these interfaces with media freedoms allowed or restricted via media regulations governed by the print, electronic and internet regulators
  • Track the state of media professionalisms in the country including ethical and public interest journalism practices and challenges, and the challenges of misinformation, disinformation and fake news phenomena
  • Follow the changing economic dynamics of the media industry and how they impact the business viability and sustainability of media and exploitation of media staff in lieu of their wages and arrears
  • Scrutinize threats and attacks against media and information practitioners, the state of impunity of crimes against journalists and efforts to provide justice for those aggrieved and distressed

INFORMATION SOURCESThis report monitors, among others, the following sources of information:  

  • Government: Federal and provincial cabinets
  • Ministries: Related ministries, including Information and Broadcasting, Information Technology (IT) and Telecom, Human Rights, Science and Technology, Commerce and Industry, etc. 
  • Legislatures: Senate, National Assembly, provincial assemblies, relevant standing committees  
  • Regulators: Pakistan telecommunications Authority (PTA), Pakistan Electronic Media regulatory Authority (PEMRA), Press Council of Pakistan (PPC), State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), etc. 
  • Global organizations: UN/Unesco, International Media Support (IMS), Reporters Without Borders (RSF), International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Amnesty International (AI), Human Rights Watch (HRW), etc. 
  • National organizations: Digital Rights Foundation (DRF), BoloBhi, Media Matters for Democracy (MMFD), Institute for Research, Advocacy and Development (IRADA), Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), etc.
  • Media: Dawn, The News, Express Tribune, The Nation, Pakistan Today, The Friday Times, etc. 
  • Social Media: Facebook, Twitter, etc.
  • Local networks: Journalists Safety Hubs Network, Alliance on Diversity & Pluralism in Media, etc.
  • Any other open public information sources 

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