— Paying the price for highlighting the truth
PESHAWAR: Young journalist Abid Hussain, a worker of Sang-e-meel newspaper in Multan, succumbed to injuries a day after he was attacked on August 22, read the First Information Report (FIR). His father said Hussain was killed for his reporting on “criminal activities” in the area.
Hussain has now become the third journalist murdered in 2018 after sub-editor Anjum Muneer Raja was killed in Rawalpindi district on March 1 and journalist Zeeshan Ashraf Butt in Sialkot on March 27. All three murdered journalists hailed from Punjab.
Thirteen cases of murder, violence, harassment, verbal threat, censorship and robbery against journalists were documented across Pakistan during the month of August, as per Pakistan Press Club Safety Hub Network, managed by media watchdog organization Freedom Network.
Islamabad-based Freedom Network was assisting aggrieved journalists by collaborating with eight press clubs of the country including Karachi, Lahore, Quetta, Islamabad and Peshawar, Khuzdar (Balochistan), Landikotal and Sukkur, under the Pakistan Press Club Safety Hub Network programme, since February 2016.
In the Abid Hussain FIR, which was lodged on August 24 – two days after the attack – the filer said that an attacker – Tahir Hussain – stopped Abid Hussain and threated him by shouting, “We will teach you today a lesson for filing reports against us.”
“Tahir Hussain and his gang attacked the journalist brutally with bamboo sticks, causing serious injuries to his head. The attackers then openly warned others that they would face the same fate if they came forward (to rescue the journalist),” according to the FIR. Hussain succumbed to his wounds in Nishtar Hospital in Multan on August 22.
Similarly, Hum News channel reporter Farid Sabri was attacked at the entry gate of Islamabad High Court by police on August 13. The journalist had gone there to cover the legal case of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif. “I was slapped on my face when I asked why I was not allowed to enter the court despite all necessary permissions,” the reporter told Freedom Network.
In another incident, unknown gunmen opened fire outside the residence of Express News channel anchor Imran Khan on the night of August 1 in Lahore. Khan believed the firing could have been “a message” for him to “stay away from sensitive issues”. The journalist was not able to say who might have been behind the firing.
On August 13, Islamabad administration refused to allow media to cover Nawaz Sharif’s appearance before an accountability court. “No one was allowed to enter the court premises,” more than a dozen TV and print media journalists told Freedom Network. The administration cited “security reasons” to block the reporters and crewmembers’ from entering the premises. They staged a protest outside the court to vent their anger at the administration’s decision.
In other incidents, sub-editor Farooq Shahzad of Express newspaper received verbal threats on August 31 after he highlighted on his Facebook page an attempt of encroachment on a graveyard land in Rahim Yar Khan.
Journalist Saleem Safi who hosts “Jirga” on Geo News channel, was harassed by online supporters of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf after he disclosed on August 19 that former prime minister Nawaz Sharif had paid from his “own pocket” expenses of the Prime Minister’s House. His disclosure came after the PTI government said it would launch “austerity campaign” to lower the expenses of the government.
Senior Geo News channel correspondent Asif Ali Bhatti was denied entry into the National Assembly despite having official permission to carry out professional duties. The DSP of Parliament House Security refused him entry on August 13. Reportedly, Sargent of Arms of the Parliament also misbehaved with Parliament Reporters Association President Siddique Sajid, NewsOne TV channel reporter Kashif Rafique and Jehan Pakistan newspaper reporter Asghar Chaudhry on August 13.
Federal Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid damaged the mobile phone of Channel 24 TV cameraman Aqib Javed on August 21 when he filming the minister allegedly attempting to push a woman away in Rawalpindi. “The minister grabbed my mobile and smashed to the concrete ground,” the cameraman said.
On August 15, journalist Abdul Waheed asked PML-N Shahbaz Sharif a question regarding politics within the Sharif family. The question angered the PML-N supporters and they hinted at attacking the journalist, who, however, remained safe but harassed. No party leader moved forward to cool the situation.
Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists has taken serious note of these cases and termed harassment of journalists as “sanctions” on press freedom.
The Supreme Court served August 29 a show-cause notice to ARY News host Arshad Sharif for discussing sub judice matters in his talk show “Powerplay.”
Adil Gill, cameraman of Daily Ausaf, was robbed of his camera near his home in Rawalpindi district on August 27. Unknown bikers intercepted him while he was returning from his workplace. The bikers also snatched his mobile phone. On August 30, Aaj TV channel’s cameraman Muzamel Ali Khan was also robbed when unknown robbers snatched his TV camera in Rawalpindi district.
Pakistan Electronics Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) served ARY Newschannel show-cause notice for discussing sub judice matter and gave warnings to Filmazia, Health TV for “showing indecent content” as well as A Plus, Play TV, Film World and Geo Kahani for “airing excessive foreign content”. The authority also advised APNA Chanel and 8XM against telecasting “indecent content.”