According to a report published by Freedom Network, Islamabad-based Pakistani organisation monitoring freedom of press and freedom of expression, two journalists have been reportedly missing in Sindh, nine journalists were assaulted or injured, two legal cases were filed against many journalists whose comments on social media pages appeared. In addition, the Punjab Police has banned media from taking photos or making videos of their installations, one journalist was arrested under controversial cybercrime law in Balochistan in addition to a journalist’s house being attacked after the violations in August 2017 were made public.
Seven journalists who disappeared, or were arrested or detained, assaulted or injured, faced legal cases or home attacked belonged to print media and four belonged to electronic media.
Among the threat-actors are workers of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, Punjab Police, Federal Investigation Agency, lawyers and unknown elements who made two journalists disappear in Sindh.
Two journalists go missing
Two journalists, Ghulam Rasool Burfat and Badal Nohani went missing on separate dates after a crackdown was launched on Sindhi nationalists and human rights defenders across the province.
On August 5, 2017, Ghulam Rasool Burfat, working for Sindh Express newspaper went “missing”. He is suspected to have been picked up from his residence in Sindh University Housing Society in Jamshoro. Gulam Rasool is believed to be a relative of Shafi Muhammad Burfat, the chairman of Jeay Sindh Mutahida Mahaz. According to local journalists, relatives are taken away to force the surrender of the main wanted person.
In another incident on August 9, 2017, Badal Nohani, secretary-general of Jamshoro Press Club, was reported missing after masked people arrived in unknown vehicles. There has been complete silence on the matter despite the concerned family holding a demonstration outside Hyderabad Press Club for Nohani’s safe return.
No authority in Sindh government has confirmed the abduction of the journalists nor has there been any information provided explaining the reason behind the disappearance of these journalists.
There has been no confirmation that links the journalists’ disappearance with their work. However, their journalistic credentials are well established.
LEGAL CASES: A case was registered by Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) against journalist Jabbar Umrani of Subat Pur in Naseerabad district of Balochistan on August 05, 2017.The case was registered under the controversial Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECCA).
The case was registered after a station house officer in Subat Pur lodged a complaint against the Waqt News channel journalist followed his comments on social media about the SHO.
It is pertinent to mention that Jabbar is the third journalist to be booked under PECA law in Balochistan.
In a separate incident, Abdul Sattar Niazi, a journalist in tehsil Gujar Khan in Punjab province employed by Islamabad-based Daily Metro, was forced to sign a “dictated” affidavit that he “is not a journalist and will never post any comment again” against lawyers. The affidavit was forced signed after local police officials detained him in a police station for hours following his Facebook photo showing lawyers encroaching state land in the tehsil near the judicial complex.
The lawyers withdrew the application after the journalist gave in to their demands. The journalist was reportedly subjected to intense “blackmailing” and “pressure” to surrender.
Niazi happens to be the fourth journalist to face legal case after he posted on social media pages.
ASSAULTS: Nine journalists were assaulted and injured while on official duty. Five of the nine violations were reported from Punjab meanwhile the remaining four were reported from Islamabad.
On August 5, BOL News channel senior journalist Sudhir Chaudhry was attacked in Liberty Market in Lahore while doing a live show for the channel. The attackers managed to escape after the incident. The journalist was hosting a programme along with controversial anchorperson Dr Amir Liaqat who is critical of ruling party’s policies.
Subsequently, on August 10, the PML-N workers attacked the crew of BOL News channel near Faizabad in Rawalpindi district. Reporter Safdar Klasra and his two female colleagues namely Naila Afsar and Benazir Mehdi had their mobile phones and other equipment snatched. Klasra was injured in the incident and taken to the hospital. On August 15, the police registered an FIR against the PML-N workers after the Rawalpindi-Islamabad Union of Journalists and National Press Club Safety Hub were agitated.
On August 11, workers of PML-N attacked DSNG van of ARY News channel in Gujranwala district of Punjab province during the march of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif. The van driver and DSNG operator ran to escape from the attack. However, party leaders intervened to provide the crew safe passage.
On August 11, Islamabad-based cameraman Sheraz Gardezi experienced police violence in Gujrat while he was covering the former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s rally. The police authorities asked the photographer to refrain from taking shots. The same day, a journalist Nayyer Waheed Rawat reported an attack on his house in the jurisdiction of Tanol police station in Rawalpindi district of Punjab. Rawat is an employee of Capital News channel. However, he along with his family were reported safe in the attack. He stated that the attack followed after a report about kidnappers in Tarnol area was published.
On August 18, journalists Babar Anwar and Hafiz Haseeb, working for Daily Mubalegh, published a report on “presence of wine bottles and other objectionable items” in Kashmir House in Islamabad. Both the journalists shared the story on their social media page. “We have been made subject to worse kind of torture for reporting this,” they said. A case was also lodged against the journalists on behalf of the administration of Kashmir House.
CENSORSHIP: The Punjab police chief, Captain (r) Arif Nawaz, ordered a ban on the footage of police stations and other law-enforcement installations on August 22, 2017. The journalist community protested the ban and subsequently, Punjab Police clarified that the media-personnel are excluded from the ban. However, in practice, no journalist carrying even a mobile camera is allowed inside a police station or any other installation.