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Pakistan’s Media Face Increased Crackdown on Free Speech

When journalist Marvi Sirmed returned home to Islamabad with her family last week from vacation, she was shocked to find her house ransacked. She feared a robbery, until she noticed that most of her valuables, like watches and jewelry, were taken out of drawers and strewn around the house, whereas two laptops, a phone, and some of her family’s travel documents were missing. Sirmed experienced a disturbing feeling of familiarity. It was the third time this had happened to her. The alleged “thieves” who had broken into her house had gone through all of her documents, particularly her files on human rights cases and unofficial diplomacy initiatives with India or Afghanistan. The intruders had also listened to, and erased audio from, voice recorders she used for reporting, but left the devices behind. “What kind of thieves are interested in only data and documents?” she questioned. .............. Pakistan has long had a mixed record on press freedom. It has a vibrant private media, often strongly criticizing the sitting government and reporting on everything from corruption to internal party politics; however, state and non-state actors, including religious extremists or members of separatist movements, often threaten, attack, or even kill journalists............

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