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NEW YORK: “Pakistani authorities must allow journalists to work freely and safely in the run-up to elections on February 8, allow nationwide access to the internet, and unblock the investigative news website FactFocus,” the Committee to Protect Journalists said Tuesday.

“Internet services will be temporarily restricted in “sensitive” polling booths across Balochistan province ahead of Thursday’s elections to mitigate risks that “terrorists may exploit social media platforms… for communication purposes,” Provincial Information Minister Jan Achakzai announced on February 4.

Separately, the regulatory Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) blocked access to FactFocus on January 31 on the grounds that the website was hosting content “with intent to ridicule, defame the Armed Forces,” FactFocus said in a February 2 statement that included a copy of the PTA notice. FactFocus said that it was due to publish an investigation related to the elections when the block was announced.

Amnesty International calls for ‘uninterrupted internet access’ in Pakistan on election day

The news website came under a “severe attack” on February 1, Ahmad Noorani, co-founder of FactFocus, told CPJ from exile in the US, adding that the outlet was working to reinstate access to the website.

“Pakistan authorities must immediately reverse repressive measures aimed at curtailing journalists’ ability to report freely in the lead-up to the February 8 polls,” said CPJ Asia Programme Coordinator Beh Lih Yi.

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