World Press Freedom Day statement

sn16Timothy Balding

On this day – World Press Freedom Day – I extend my best wishes and words of encouragement to the rural press of Pakistan on behalf of the World Association of Newspapers, which represents publishers and editors in more than 100 countries through 18,000 publications.

This year, WAN has chosen “Press Under Surveillance” as the theme of its annual World Press Freedom Day Campaign. In recent years, countries worldwide have tightened their security and surveillance measures in reply to terrorist attacks and threats. The objective of these measures is laudable and compelling – the protection of citizens against threats to life and property.

There is, however, a legitimate and growing concern that in too many instances such measures are being used to stifle debate and the free flow of information about political decisions, or that they are being implemented with too little concern for the overriding necessity to protect individual liberties and, notably, freedom of the press.

The theme of this year’s WAN World Press Freedom Day Campaign is of particular concern for the Pakistani media.

In the past years, the press freedom situation in your country has continued to erode under the government of President Pervez Musharraf. Media are not allowed to report freely on subjects considered sensitive by the military. Journalists who have done so have been kidnapped and in some instances even killed. Through threats and legal harassment, the authorities have sent repeated signals to Pakistani media that there should not be any negative reporting on the judiciary, the army or the state.

On this day, I call on the government of Pakistan to allow for the media to work freely without any interference or pressure. It is of essence that the media of Pakistan enjoy total freedom in their coverage of terrorism and adjacent subjects. Press freedom is not only a prerequisite of economic and political development but it also plays a crucial role in the struggle against international terrorism.

Timothy Balding
Chief Executive Officer
World Association of Newspapers



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