Journalists against torture


Aimed at creating awareness regarding the issue of torture into police custody across the country, Individual Land Pakistan (IL Pakistan), a non-profit organisation, on Saturday constituted a committee comprising 24 journalists from 11 cities against torture.
The IL Pakistan constituted a body titled, ‘National Committee against Torture (NCAT) during a two-day training workshop of selected 24 journalists, organised by it with the partnership of Foundation Open Society Institute (FOSI) after conducting training of journalists from print and electronic media in the 11 cities, Karachi, Hyderabad, Sukkur, Lahore, Gujranwala, Multan, Faisalabad Peshawar, Mardan, Quetta and Pishin, during the first phase of the project.
The objectives of the initiative are to sensitise the media regarding the subject of torture and help eradicate the practice of torture from the state structures. The training focused on the criminal justice system, understandings of legal and human rights activists on the subject of torture.
In the second phase, IL Pakistan constituted NCAT consisting of 24 members from 11 cities from across the country. The committee will work at national level, having the objective to map and document torture cases in their respective areas, while reporting on them.
The two-day workshops also constituted provincial committees against torture consisting of at-least five members each and with the responsibility for documenting and reporting incidents of torture, while creating awareness and sensitisation of torture. They will also spread awareness on reporting torture and understanding torture in criminal justice system to other colleagues in the print media.
The committees will have a combined meeting at the end of each month, where they will discuss the progress on the project/action plan. The committees will also report their progress and documented incidents of torture to the NCAT facilitation desk in Islamabad at Individual Land’s office. The workshops selected Irshad Mastoi from Quetta as national coordinator and Jaffar Mehmand from Hyderabad as deputy national coordinator.
A facilitation desk will be responsible for coordination with the committees while assisting them in achieving their objectives. The desk will have further task of highlighting the issue of torture and torture related incidents at national level.
IL Pakistan Project Coordinator Shaukat Ali Ashraf, while sharing results of the base line survey report conducted in 11 cities, said that violence and torture were two different phenomena.
He said that domestic violence, which unfortunately is common practice in Pakistan, also does not come under the category of torture, but journalists usually consider it as torture because of lack of knowledge about the subject. According to the survey, out of 276 respondents surveyed, 66 percent were of the view that women are mostly subjected to torture whereas 34 percent thought that men are subjected to torture.
The IL coordinator said that Pakistan is among those countries, where torture is used by state officials as a systematic instrument to extract evidence from suspects of different crimes. Amnesty International estimated that more than 100 persons die into police custody each year in Pakistan.
“Citizens cannot do much about this obnoxious state activity, but there is one institution except media that can play a critical role in controlling it. In addition to highlighting torture cases, they can also focus their reporting on how citizens can protect themselves from torture under the existing circumstances,” he said.
Journalists from various print, electronic and broadcast organizations stressed to train media persons, police officials and lower judiciary on the issue of torture. There is lack of awareness, especially in the rural areas, regarding the issue of torture in custody, they said.
They said that there is a lot of more work yet to be done in Pakistan in terms of legislation against torture. Journalists said that media should be cautious while reporting issues of torture.