Challenges of Viability, Sustainability and Resilience of Indie Digital Journalism Platforms in Pakistan (2022)

Independent online journalism in Pakistan faces a host of challenges including financial issues, safety risks and disinformation campaigns. This report relies on the opinions of news industry experts to discuss the challenges and explore the different ways in which Pakistani digital journalism start-ups are carving out a space for public interest content, free expression and diversity despite the problems they face.

The 2022 State of Digital Journalism report, produced by the Institute for Research, Advocacy and Development (IRADA) with support from IMS, offers a frank examination of the emerging ecosystem of independent digital journalism platforms in Pakistan against the backdrop of the rise of internet use in the country and a corresponding escalation in the crackdown on digital rights and online freedom of expression. 

The report explores the increasing challenges to the business viability and financial sustainability of independent digital journalism start-ups. It presents perspectives on the changing nature of journalism in Pakistan, challenges to the freedom of expression, gender equality in digital media, the use of social networks for online journalism, the impact of disinformation on the work of digital news outlets and the sustainability of media start-ups. 

The report is based on interviews with Pakistani and international experts, including journalists, press freedom advocates and media development professionals. The respondents include the Director of the Centre for Excellence in Journalism Amber Rahim Shamsi, Free Press Award winner veteran journalist Hamid Mir, President of the Digital Media Alliance of Pakistan Sabookh Syed, Director of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan Farah Zia and IMS Head of Journalism and Media Viability Clare Cook, among others. 

The study finds that the Pakistani digital native news outlets are fighting an existential battle due to lack of resources, financial insecurity and safety risks but, at the same time, they are also exploring avenues of audience development, factchecking and social media monetisation to win the trust of online audiences and ensure viability for their news operations.