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US concerned over lack of freedom of speech in Pakistan

WASHINGTON (CU)_US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has voiced his concern over the prevailing threat to freedom of expression and association in Pakistan, in light of “significant restrictions” on media outlets in the country. Addressing a virtual roundtable meeting on Wednesday (28 April), the top US diplomat pointed to the lack of accountability for attacks against and disappearances of journalists in the South Asian nation.

“We’ve documented some of this in our Country Reports on Human Rights practices, and we see media outlets, journalists, their families in Pakistan often subject to threats, harassment at the hands of security forces, political parties, militants, other groups,” he said.

Responding to questions regarding the promotion of freedom of press in countries such as India and Pakistan, the Secretary of State noted that Washington regularly raises these issues with authorities in Islamabad during meetings and conversations.

“Our open and honest engagement with Pakistan enables us, I think, to have an ongoing, sustained dialogue on human rights issues more broadly, and more specifically when it comes to press freedom, the rule of law, religious freedom, even as we collaborate in a number of areas where we have very clear mutual interests,” he noted.

In February, the US State Department announced a visa restriction policy, known as the “Khashoggi Ban”, against representatives of foreign governments who are believed to have been directly involved in extraterritorial counter-dissident activities. Secretary Blinken noted that beyond the Khashoggi Ban and other relevant regulations, the Biden administration also continues to highlight any practices which they find offensive and unacceptable.

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