Expression in Pakistan

The legal framework in Pakistan authorises the government to curb freedom of expression on topics including the constitution itself, the armed forces, the judiciary and religion. Journalists in Pakistan operate in a hostile environment, especially in conflict zones, as they are often the target of violence and intimidation by state and non-state actors. Since 1992, 58 journalists have been killed in Pakistan. The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) continues to temporarily suspend TV channels in an attempt to undermine their editorial independence. For example, PEMRA directed TV news channels not to air programmes that might harm Pakistan’s relations with friendly countries. Internet penetration is limited in Pakistan, with 14 percent of the population online in 2014, while online content addressing sensitive subjects is routinely blocked, and the government continues to censor any material considered blasphemous. In 2015, the government banned two documentaries because they ‘presented a negative image of Pakistan.’ In August 2016, the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Bill was passed into law. The new act has been widely condemned because it gives the authorities the power to target unpopular online speech and apply vague and broad provisions to any Pakistani citizen living in the country as well as abroad.