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Media in Chains: The Cost of Speaking Truth to Power in South Asia

Author: Naziha Syed Ali 

Affiliation: Dawn  

Organization/Publisher: Dawn  

Date/Place: April 3, 2021/Pakistan 

Type of Literature: Special Report 

Word Count: 2887 

KeywordsPakistan, Media, Journalism, World Press Freedom Day


On March 17th, journalist Ajay Lalwani was shot dead in a barber’s shop in Sukkur. The barber reported that he only saw the gleam of pistols and witnesses reported two men fleeing the scene. It took half an hour for the police to arrive despite the police station being within walking distance. There wasn’t even mention of his death for two days in the papers. This is just a glimpse into the situation of journalists in Pakistan, particularly in Sindh. Pakistan ranks as the 5th most dangerous place for journalism according to The International Federation of Journalists, with there already having been 3 murders in 2021. Militants, politicians and security agencies seem to have a bone to pick with journalists who expose the true working of things. Sindh especially is hazardous for journalists as the police force is hand-in-hand with the waderas (feudal lord) and journalists repeatedly report their houses being raided by the police and being beaten up. Often times, FIRs (First Information Report) are filed against journalists on grounds of waging war against Pakistan, kidnapping for ransom, dacoity (violent robbery by an armed gang), rioting, rape and terrorism. Journalists are then badgered with legal cases, threats of murder and detention by police. Staged encounters are an effective method used to dispose of journalists; there is a protest in Larkana for missing persons, but it doesn’t find any coverage. There is also a personality known as the sahafi wadera who’s role is to control what journalists write about politicians, and he gets money from the development fund for such work. From targeting their families, to demoting them, to outright killing journalists that toe out of line, media in Pakistan is a fatal job. 

By: Sahar Sadiq, CIGA Research Intern



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