Pakistan authorities block distribution of oldest newspaper

Distribution of the English-language daily Dawn, Pakistan’s oldest newspaper, is being disrupted in much of the country since it published an interview with former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns this latest attack on media freedom.

The interview, which reportedly displeased the Pakistani military, appeared in the 12 May (Saturday) issue and the blocking began on 15 May. According to RSF’s information, distribution is being disrupted in most of Baluchistan province, in many cities in Sindh province and in all military cantonments.

The Press Council of Pakistan has notified Dawn’s editor that the newspaper breached the ethical code of practice by publishing content that “may bring into contempt Pakistan or its people or tends to undermine its sovereignty or integrity as an independent country.”

“The unwarranted blocking of the distribution of one of the main independent newspapers has yet again shown that the military are determined to maintain their grip on access to news and information in Pakistan,” RSF said.

“It is clear that the military high command does not want to allow a democratic debate in the months preceding a general election. We call on the authorities to stop interfering in the dissemination of independent media and to restore distribution of Dawn throughout Pakistan.”

Last month, the military were said to have given unofficial instructions to cable TV operators to stop carrying the Geo TV network’s channels, including Geo News, in most of the country. One of the reasons was the airtime that the network had dedicated to Sharif, who was removed as prime minister by the supreme court in July 2017 in connection with a corruption case.

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