ISLAMABAD: For some years now, media professionals and news industry insiders in Pakistan have spoken of a growing trend of self-censorship among local journalists. The self-censorship is argued to be a defense mechanism against threats, harassment, and acts of physical violence. However, a lack of tangible data about this phenomenon has often led to the issue being ignored in media policy discourse and efforts to ensure the safety of journalists.

Media Matters for Democracy, Pakistan launched a new research study mapping perceptions about self censorship among Pakistani journalists on  World Press Freedom Day 2018.  The study Surrendering to Silence, reveals alarming statistics about the practice of self censorship in Pakistan’s media, with 88% of the respondents stating that they had engaged in self censorship in professional and 79% saying that they had additionally engaged in self censorship in their personal expression as well. 

Nine in every 10 respondents also said they had seen their news colleagues commit self-censorship. Around 72% respondents thought self-censorship had increased over time in the Pakistani media. Nearly 86% respondents could not think of reporting without self-censorship because of the prevailing conditions in the country.  Most alarmingly, almost two in three respondents said they had been threatened or attacked for their expression and seven in every 10 respondents said self-censorship made them feel safer. 
Eight in 10 respondents blamed the policies of their own news organizations as the reason for self-censorship. This could indicate an organizational culture of self-censorship creeping into the Pakistani press. Respondents admitted they were most likely to self-censor information and opinions about security and religion in their professional work and personal conversations.
The complete research report is available at Digital Rights Monitor, operated by Media Matters for Democracy with support of Association for Progressive Communications, APC.