A recent report by Freedom House, a Washington-based organisation, has painted Pakistan ‘red’ on the global map labelling it as ‘not free’ for the journalists to report on domestic issues.

The report, which coincided with the World Press Freedom Day on May 3, has placedPakistanat number 64 in the global index among 47 countries which have been described as ‘not free’.

Freedom House, which has been at the forefront in monitoring threats to media independence since 1980, released its report in the presence of journalists currently visiting theUSfrom across the globe to share experiences on new trends in journalism.

Media freedom in Pakistan during 2012, according to the report, remained constrained by official attempts to restrict critical reporting and by the high level of violence against journalists. “The constitution and other legislation, such as the Official Secrets Act, authorise the government to curb freedom of speech on subjects including the constitution itself, the armed forces, the judiciary, and religion. Harsh blasphemy laws have occasionally been used to suppress the media”, say findings of the report.

Freedom House has also shown its concern over Pakistani government’s efforts to increase internet censorship with the release of a request for proposals to build a system capable of blocking millions of URLs.

While the emergence of a vibrant private media, along with a nascent civil society has been viewed in the report as ‘the most important positive developments in Pakistan in recent years’, the lack of a more mature class of media professionals and emergence of illiberal voices have been described as the factors hampering the freedom of speech.

The presence of extremists in Swat region is threatening to smother open discussion and thwart the progress of democratic development. The mounting economic crisis will place added pressure on the industry, it said.

Pakistanis among the 47 countries which have been declared ‘not free’ includingAfghanistan,China,Saudi Arabia,IranandSri Lanka. Other countries in the region includingIndiaandNepalare among the 58 countries labelled as ‘partly free’.

The neighbouring Afghanistan, has, however, improved its score from 74 in 2011to 67 in the preceding year. This improvement has been attributed to a continuing decrease in violence against journalists, the opening of a number of new private media outlets, that are free to criticize the government , and a decline in official censorship and prosecutions of journalists are the factors. Of the 47 countries designated as ‘not free’, nine including North Korea, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Sudan have been given the survey’s lowest possible rating of 7 for both political rights and civil liberties.

Norwey,Sweden,Belgium,Finland,Netherlands,Denmark,Luxembourg,Switzerland,Andorraand Icelandare the top ten countries in the global index which enjoy an absolute media freedom.

The Freedom House applies one of three broad category designations to each of the countries and territories included in the index: free, partly free, and not free.

A ‘free’ country is one where there is open political competition, a climate of respect for civil liberties, significant independent civic life, and independent media. It has been designated green colour.

A ‘partly free’ country is one in which there is limited respect for political rights and civil liberties. Partly free states frequently suffer from an environment of corruption, weak rule of law, ethnic and religious strife, and a political landscape in which a single party enjoys dominance despite a certain degree of pluralism. It has been shown yellow on the map.

A ‘not free’ country asPakistanis one where basic political rights are absent, and basic civil liberties are widely and systematically denied. It has been printed red on the world map released by the Freedom House.

The Freedom in the World survey provides an annual evaluation of the progress and decline of freedom in 195 countries and 14 related and disputed territories. The survey, which includes both analytical reports and numerical ratings, measures freedom according to two broad categories: political rights and civil liberties. Political rights ratings are based on an evaluation of three subcategories: electoral process, political pluralism and participation, and functioning of government. Civil liberties ratings are based on an evaluation of four subcategories: freedom of expression and belief, associational and organisational rights, rule of law, and personal autonomy and individual rights.

Factors like freedom of expression and belief, associational and organisational rights, rule of law and personal autonomy and individual rights are also taken into account while determining the score of a country with regard to freedom of press.

As reported by The Nation

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