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Watchdog decries eroding free speech in Pakistan

Human Rights Commission criticizes crackdown on liberal groups and critics of army in recent months

Watchdog decries eroding free speech in Pakistan

The whereabouts of activist Raza Khan, pictured, are still unknown (Photo courtesy of the Aghaz-e-Dosti website)

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Published: December 11, 2017 10:12 AM GMT

Updated: December 11, 2017 10:15 AM GMT

Pakistan's independent human rights watchdog has raised concern over "rapidly eroding freedoms of expression" in the Muslim-majority South Asian country. 

"The shrinking space for freedom of expression in Pakistan is extremely disturbing.  Stifling citizens' freedom of expression will lead to the negation of all other human rights," a statement by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) said.

The statement was issued to mark Human Rights Day on Dec. 10.

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"The right to … free expression of ideas is essential to any democratic setup. Without the free flow of information and ideas there can be no informed discourse between citizens, which will breed further divisions and intolerance within society," it said.

Pakistan is ranked as one of the world's most dangerous countries for human rights activists and recent months have seen a crackdown on liberal groups and critics of the country's powerful army, activists have said.

Earlier this year, five social media activists known for running satirical Facebook and Twitter pages critical of Pakistan's army and blasphemy laws were detained and allegedly tortured.

One of them, Waqas Goraya, later told the BBC that he was tortured for pleasure.  

The latest victim was student activist Raza Khan, arrested in Lahore on Dec. 2 after giving a talk on the dangerous of extremism. His whereabouts are still unknown.

"All such actions are clearly having a chilling effect on civil society's ability to exercise its freedom of expression for fear of the serious repercussions for speaking out freely," the HRCP warned.

 

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