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Attacks on press freedom in Asia

We covered the event "Press in Government's Crosshairs: Persecuted Media in Pakistan and Hong Kong" at the 16th Abraji Investigative Journalism Congress. The speakers highlighted the atacks on press freedom in Asia and the need for a supportive citizenship.

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Photo source: Anthony Kwan - via Amnesty International

By Gabriel Jiménez. Published: August 24, 2021.

From August 23-27, 2021, the 16th Abraji Investigative Journalism Congress is held.

In one of the initial sessions, entitled “Press in Government’s Crosshairs: Persecuted Media in Pakistan and Hong Kong,” Márcio Gomes, from CNN Brazil, discusses the situation of journalists who have been persecuted by governments that reject freedom of press and expression.

In recent weeks, Pakistan has been the scenario of multiple protests over the passage of a law that journalists say restricts the free exercise of their profession. It establishes fines and three months imprisonment for disseminating information on legislative proceedings of local assemblies or commissions before it is officially communicated to the Official Gazette. Zaffar Abbas, editor of Dawn, Pakistan’s leading English-language daily newspaper; a reporter from Hong Kong, whose identity was withheld for his safety; and Cedric Alvani, director of Reporters Without Borders in the East Asia region, participated.

Zaffar Abbas provided background information to help understand the situation that journalists live and have experienced in recent years in the Pakistani scenario. In this country, the narrative of nationalist forces has prevailed over the response of human rights organizations in defense of journalists. Unfortunately, that has been detrimental to the public, as the lack of information prevents them from knowing what is happening.

Added to this view is the constant concern for the safety of the media and their journalists. Abbas explained that government forces had established persecution and harassment of reporters through military intelligence.

The Dawn editor emphasized the need to make the issue more visible by telling the stories of the victims, strengthening organizations that protect the press, and uniting Pakistanis to preserve their freedom of expression.

As a former British colony that returned to Chinese control in 1997, Hong Kong has seen its autonomy progressively weakened by Chinese government interference, including the kidnapping of the leader of the publishing house that published books on Chinese communist members. The vision given by the Hong Kong journalist has several commonalities with the Pakistani situation, given the repression to which the media and those who belong to them are subjected. One of the practices he denounced is the freezing of public resources, which has stalled payments to journalists and employees. He also warned about the persecution, accusations, and restriction of access to information, which hinders the progress of journalistic investigations.

One of the recent censorship mechanisms is the new National Security Law, which restricted the media’s actions and declared certain of their activities illegal, explained the Hong Kong journalist.

Finally, Cedric Alviani, from Reporters without Borders, broadened the vision of the discussion, taking the Chinese government, known as the first enemy of press freedom in the world, as an object of study. In addition to the restrictions to which journalists are subjected, preventing them, for example, from quickly contacting their sources, the Chinese population has barriers that limit their access to content outside their own country, said Alviani.

The Reporters Without Borders director for East Asia concluded with an urgent need on a global scale: the support of citizens and public officials for journalism must be strengthened, demanding truly democratic governments that guarantee freedom of the press and freedom of opinion.

You can follow everything that happens at the congress at