Pakistan Government and Media
Government Type: Federal Parliamentary Republic
Leader: Prime Minister Imran Khan
Head of State: President Arif Alvi
Political Party: Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)
Political Position: Populist, Islamist Right
World Press Freedom Rank: Pakistan 145/180
According to Reporters without Borders, the military and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) have significant control over Pakistani media. This control has increased since 2018 when Imran Khan was elected as prime minister. Therefore Reporters without Borders (RSF) listed Prime Minister Imran Khan as a ‘press freedom predator’ and states his predatory method as “military with dictatorial tendencies.” On the other hand, Khan’s government rejected the RSF report and portrayal of the Prime Minister, stating that “It appears that the report that [Reporters Without Borders] has issued is an attempt to malign the elected representative of the people; of Pakistan, without any corroborative evidence.”
Government Influence on Media
The majority of media in Pakistan is privately owned (since 2002). Currently, the state-owned media is limited to the Pakistan Television and Radio Pakistan channels. Overall, The government has a considerable role as a regulator as it exerts its control through Pakistan’s Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) and Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA ).
The Government controls media either directly by appointing the board members or through state advertisements. The Government is also the primary advertiser in media, which is the primary source of revenue for media outlets. This leads to significant pro-Government bias, as the Government will spend more to advertise in outlets supporting them and awarding advertising contracts based on favoritism.
The Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation (PBC Radio Pakistan), Pakistan Television (PTV), and Shalimar Recording and Broadcasting Company (SRBC) are state-owned and free to operate and expand without any regulatory oversight. This regulatory exception of state-run media gives it “an undue advantage over private-sector media, and distorts competition in the market.” Further, according to Nikkei Asia, many outlets accuse the government of “acting at the behest of the powerful military to make journalists fall in line.”
In summary, the Government of Pakistan and the military have a powerful influence on the media; for example, Geo News TV took a journalist off-air after criticizing the military. The result is a media that promotes one-sided pro-government propaganda that limits criticism and plurality.