Media Freedom in a Populist Regime: Evidence From Pakistan

Shabir Hussain, Qamar Abbas, Mohammad Anas Sheikh


In this study, the researchers analyzed the state of media freedom in Pakistan during the populist regime of Imran Khan from August 2018 till April 2022. For this purpose, semistructured interviews were conducted with senior journalists of prominent newspapers and TV channels in the country. The researchers found that journalists were under immense pressure to perform their duties professionally. They faced intimidations, threats to their families, and termination from services. Furthermore, the government adopted a carrot-and-stick policy while dealing with the media. The supportive media received both financial and professional benefits while the critical media were tightly monitored and punished. Journalists also faced online harassment by the troll factories affiliated with the government. The study showed the Pakistani populist regime was mainly applying the same strategies to control media as were other populist-led governments. However, because of weak institutional support for journalists, the regime was successful in curtailing free expression substantially compared with the situation in rest of the democratic world.


populism, media control, Pakistan, censorship, threats to life, trolls, bipartite approach

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