Pakistan rejects naming of PM Khan as press freedom predator

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistan on Tuesday vehemently rejected an international media watchdog’s report that lists Prime Minister Imran Khan on a list of the world’s 37 worst rulers when it comes to press freedom.

The angry reaction from Khan’s government came in response to a Monday report titled: “Press freedom predators gallery — old tyrants, two women and a European,” released by Paris-based Reporters Without Borders.

According to the group, the “cases of brazen censorship are legion since Khan became prime minister” following parliamentary elections in 2018. It said during Khan’s rule, the distribution of newspapers was interrupted, media outlets were threatened with withdrawal of advertising and TV channel signals were jammed.

“Journalists who cross the red lines have been threatened, abducted and tortured,” the media watchdog said.

Pakistan’s Information Ministry in a statement Tuesday rejected the allegations, saying Khan’s government believed in the “freedom of expression and media independence.”

In a statement, the ministry said it was surprising that Reporters Without Borders “has jumped to the conclusion” that media in Pakistan are under draconian censorship measures by Khan’s government. It said the government has been “taking all possible measures to create a congenial environment for journalists to perform their professional obligations.”

“It appears that the report that (Reporters Without Borders) has issued is an attempt to malign the elected representative of the people of Pakistan, without any corroborative evidence,” the ministry said.

The ministry said it hoped that the watchdog in the “future will avoid such irresponsible journalism.”

Critics say Pakistan has long been a deadly place for journalists. In 2020, it ranked ninth on the Committee to Protect Journalists’ annual Global Impunity Index, which assesses countries where journalists are murdered regularly and their killers go free. Although Pakistan says it supports freedom of speech, rights activists often accuse Pakistan’s military and its agencies of harassing and attacking journalists.

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