ISLAMABAD: Pakistan's former prime minister Imran Khan on Sunday announced to launch a public campaign for media freedom next week, saying the government was cracking down against journalists and media houses which were disseminating his party's narrative among people.
Khan was ousted from power in a no-confidence vote in April after losing his parliamentary majority. Since then, he has repeatedly said his administration was brought down by the United States in connivance with his political rivals since he was pursuing an independent foreign policy.
The allegation has been denied by Pakistani and American officials.
Senior members of Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party have also expressed concern more recently after a private television channel, ARY News, was reprimanded by the country's media regulator for broadcasting a segment with a PTI leader which was described as "seditious" by officials.
"I want to warn our nation of an unprecedented crackdown campaign by Imported [government] & State machinery against media houses & journalists who are carrying PTI & my narrative to the public," Khan said in a Twitter post.
"In my mass public campaign across [Pakistan] from next week, I will take up issue of media freedom & freedom of expression," he continued. "If we allow these terror tactics, designed simply to target PTI & myself, to succeed, then we will be returning to the dark days of dictatorship when there was no independent media & no room for freedom of expression."
Khan named several journalists, most of them viewed as pro-PTI, in his social media posts, saying they had to face threats, violent attacks and arrests due to their reporting and analyses.
He added real independence could not "be achieved without a free media & freedom of speech as guaranteed in our Constitution."
ARY News was taken off air in several cities of Pakistan last week after Khan's chief of staff, Dr. Shehbaz Gill, said military personnel should not follow the commands of their top officials if they were "against the sentiments of the masses."
The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) issued a show-cause notice to the channel, saying Gill's comments amounted to inciting mutiny within the army.
The channel's top management told Arab News on Friday its no-objection certificate had been revoked suddenly and unilaterally.
"What crime have we committed," its owner Salman Iqbal asked. "We are being punished for a statement by a politician which we have already disowned. But such stern action after a clarification shows that the government has made its mind to silence a critical voice."
The PTI chairman's Twitter posts also mentioned two ARY journalists who decided to leave the country after the Shahbaz Gill episode.
Khan's own administration was criticized for not upholding media freedom in the country since journalists critical of his government's policies were attacked or abducted on his watch.