Pakistan’s Prime Minister denies threats to press freedom

Prime Minister Imran Khan said in a media report that there is no crackdown on the press in the country. “I don’t mind criticism but there is blatant propaganda against the government. Unfortunately, it is the government who feels unprotected, not the media,” Khan told Al Jazeera.

The arrests of editors and threats of violence against journalists however tell a different story.

Mir Shakilur Rehman, editor-in-chief of the Jang group, the largest media organisation in Pakistan, and who has been in pretrial detention since March 12, 2020, would likely disagree.

Rehman had been arrested in Lahore by the government’s National Accountability Bureau (NAB), an anti-corruption agency, on charges relating to a 34-year-old property transaction. Rehman, 63, had requested bail on grounds of ill-health, but on July 8, the Lahore High Court denied his request. 

According to a Human Rights Watch report, reporters, editors, and producers at the Jang Group have received more than a dozen threatening letters for its critical reporting of the NAB since 2018. 

GEO TV, a private television channel that is part of Jang Group, was temporarily forced off the air and audience access was restricted as punishment for editorials criticising the government.