Imran Khan, the cricketing playboy turned Pakistani prime minister, dismissed the idea of press censorship in his homeland as a “joke” in 2019. The “unprecedented” media attacks on him proved it, he said. But a clamp down is under way, Secunder Kermani told the Today programme this week. Pakistan has become more stable since Khan became PM in 2018, but it has also lurched towards authoritarianism.
Journalists who criticise Khan or his military allies are censored, attacked online by pro-army trolls or even assaulted. Last week journalist Asad Toor was tied up in his home and badly beaten by men who claimed to be members of the intelligence service. In April, a commentator survived a shooting in the park. “Most of the journalists think that the military is responsible, especially in the case of Asad Toor,” says TV anchor Hamid Mir, who was shot and injured seven years ago. Live TV shows run on a few seconds’ delay, allowing critical views of the army to be muted. Mir recently threatened to expose the secrets of senior military figures if attacks on journalists continued. A few days later he was taken off air.