The threats to freedom of expression in Pakistan increased during the pandemic. In its assessment titled 'Pakistan Freedom of Expression Report 2020', Media Matters for Democracy (MMfD) said Pakistan performed miserably in all areas used to assess the overall situation of free speech.
The country scored 30 points out of 100 on the assessment Index, which indicates that the state of freedom of expression remained poor over the past twelve months. The report had also highlighted how individuals of the media were prime targets, often facing threats due to the lack of laws ensuring their protection.
However, while responding to the news, actor Sarwat Gilani claimed it is the fault of those who don't know how to communicate because of which they are hit back. “We have been ranked in better titles before, but this is also very important," she said.
“How will we express [ourselves] when we don’t know how to do it? As a society, we are not honest to ourselves, but quick to judge others,” Sarwat added. “We don’t know how to communicate with our children, spouses, parents, and among ourselves on social media.”
The actor continued, “When you want to change your society for the well-being of everyone then you need harkat for barkat in bringing the change yourself first. If we all take up one problem at a time and take up at least one cause and give it our voice, I can promise you we will be living in that better society, nation and Pakistan that we talk about at dinners and get togethers. God gave you a voice, be one for those who don’t have any. Let’s make The Dream come true.”
Sarwat’s own award-winning web series was made inaccessible for viewers in Pakistan for its “vulgar” content in October 2020. The series touched upon themes of child abuse, patriarchy, sexual harassment in the work place, among others. It also starred Nimra Bucha, Mehar Bano, and Yasra Rizvi.
Over the past few years, media freedom has continued its uninterrupted downward spiral in Pakistan. In its 2020 global press freedom report, RSF ranked Pakistan 145th out of the 180 countries. The Paris-based watchdog stated that the media in Pakistan has become a priority target for the country’s “deep state”.
Describing the situation as 'dismal', Iqbal Khattak, who serves as the representative of RSF in Pakistan said: “The best measuring tool to know the state of democracy is to take a look at the country’s global ranking, and it is indeed not good,” said Khattak. Pakistan’s global ranking, the RSF representative warned, may take a harder hit in the watchdog’s upcoming report.
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