Situated in Asia, bordering Afghanistan, China, India and Iran, Pakistan is among the world’s top five most populous countries with a chequered history of political instability, chronic economic mismanagement, perennial governance challenges and a poor track record of freedom of expression and civil liberties. Since the advent of the 21st century, Pakistan has also consistently ranked among the ten most dangerous countries on the planet to practice journalism – over 150 have been killed since 2000.
Founded in 1947, the country’s socio-political evolution has been adversely affected by the domination of the military’s influence over the country’s polity that has resulted in four bouts of martial law and elected governments hampered by the security establishment’s outsized shadow. This has meant the state’s political trajectory is informed by a strong security doctrine that has often subsumed economic priorities and supplanted media freedoms.
In the 20th Century Pakistan traditionally had a resilient print media that promoted people’s aspirations for representative democracy and inclusive parliamentary politics. This was superseded in first decade of the 21st Century by an independent broadcast (television and radio) media that promoted a more plural discourse, although this media came to eventually be manipulated and co-opted by state actors into caricaturizing democracy and the demand for development. In recent years, however, an increasingly digitalized Pakistan has resulted in a proliferating internet media, including social media and non-legacy, indie news platforms, that has come to democratize socio-economic development narratives and greater space for freedom of expression and civil liberties despite periodic attempts by the State to curb free speech online.
Pakistan is ranked 150th position in Reporters Without Borders’ Global Press Freedom Index Report 2023 out of 180 countries. The country moved seven positions up from 158th position in the 2022 report.