September 2017 Freedom Network Data Analysis
Fourteen journalists and media assistants were victims of attacks, arrests, verbal threats and legal cases during September 2017 across Pakistan, including special regions such as Federally Administered Tribal Areas and Gilgit-Baltistan. These cases’ documentation was undertaken under Pakistan Press Club Safety Hub Network, managed by Islamabad-based Freedom Network organization. It has been the second month having seen attacks, arrests and legal cases against journalists in as big number as there were in August.
Under Pakistan Press Club Safety Hub Network programme, Freedom Network is assisting journalists at risk in four different categories in partnership with the country’s five biggest press clubs – Karachi, Lahore, Quetta, Islamabad and Peshawar.
HARASSMENT/ASSAULTS/ATTACKS: Nine journalists were attacked while on professional duties. On September 24, two motorcyclists hurled brick to smash windscreen of car of senior journalist Matiullah Jan who hosts talk-show on Waqt News and writes weekly op-ed piece, in Barakahu area near Islamabad. He and his children survived the attack. “I do not have any family or personal feud and this attack is a signal for me,” he confided to Freedom Network. The attack on the journalist alerted the journalist community, which stood by Jan to form team to investigate the attack under senior journalist Hamid Mir.
Plain-clothed security personnel attacked on September 26 three TV journalists – Amir Saeed Abbasi of Dunya News, Shah Khalid Hamdani of 92 News and Saad bin Altaf of Neo TV channels – were attacked during coverage of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s appearance before accountability court in Islamabad. Abbasi fainted as the attack was so ferocious. Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists, Rawalpindi Union of Journalists, National Press Club and Freedom Network took up the issue with the PML-N leadership and the matter is being probed under Minister of State for Interior Talal Chaudhry. Hours after the attack, Nawaz Sharif regretted the incident and reiterated his support for press freedom.
Constables of Mumtazabad police station in Multan district of Punjab province tortured reporter Wajih Ahsan and cameraman Mirza Aslam Baig of Samaa TV on September 21 after SHO Imran Arif ordered the attack. Wajih told Lahore Press Club Safety Hub manager that they were working on package outside the police station when the concerned SHO spotted them ordering his subordinates to arrest them. “When we resisted the arrest they tortured us brutally,’ he went on to say. The Multan Union of Journalists (MUJ) protested the police attack and senior police officials suspended SHO Imran Arif, constables Liaqat Ali, Aslam and Ghulam Abbas and an inquiry is under way.
Newly-formed religious group “La Baik Ya Rasol Allah” attacked Neo TV crew and tortured on September 12. The Neo TV DSNG van was on its way back to office after covering the rally of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf when some activists of the group approached the DSNG and started beating the staff, including reporter Usamn, cameraman Ali Raza and DSNG eningeer Ameer Hamza with sticks and stones and destroyed the van as well. Ayaz Shujah, bureau chief of Neo TV, said the religious group was “angry” that his Neo TV channel did not cover their activities.
ARRESTED: On September 17, military personnel took drone operator Ashraf Nankanvi and DSNG van driver Mohsin of Geo News channel into custody outside the office of Provincial Election Commissioner in Lahore. The two TV crewmembers were using the drone technology while waiting to get results of by-elections for NA-120 constituency. The crewmembers were freed after senior staff member Zahid Sherwani assured the Provincial Election Commission officials that the channel will not use for coverage.
LEGAL CASE: Gilgit Baltistan Anti-Terrorist Court summoned on September 29 Daily Times newspaper’s Reporter Shabbir Saham to appear before the court on October 7. The journalist had filed in Daily Times in November 2016 a story on human trafficking involving allegedly ruling Pakistan Muslim League (N) legislators in autonomous Gilgit-Baltistan region. The regional government of PML-N filed a case under Anti-Terrorism Act against the journalist. The GB government attempted to arrest him last November from Islamabad but National Press Club and Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists resisted the move to save Shabbir.
Sehwan Police Station registered a case against Nazar Panhwar, working with Express Media Group. The FIR was lodged after the reporter published several news items about mismanagement of Dargah in Sehwan Shareef. He also shot a video showing some people stealing charity money from the Dargah. VERBAL THREATS: Sajid Ali Kokikhel, tribal journalist and former president of Jamrud Press Club reported verbal threat he received from pro-government local tribal elders after sharing some posts on social media against Frontier Crimes Regulations laws and merger of FATA with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. “I uploaded some posts opposing current tribal laws and supporting political reforms and some elders opposing reforms agitated asking local authorities to close the club and take action,” he told Peshawar Press Club Safety Hub manager.
Threats, Attacks & Harassment against Media Institutions
In September 2017, no case of a physical attack on media offices were documented by the Press Clubs Safety Hubs Network. There was no formal ban or enforced censorship on a media house reported this month. No information was available on any media house being served with a legal notice from either official quarters or from private parties.
Threat Actors Attacking and Harassing Journalists and Media
Military personnel, Punjab Police, Gilgit-Baltistan, religious group “La Baik Ya Rasol Allah,” pro government tribal elders in Khyber tribal region and unknown motorcyclists were among the threat actors who were named while journalists reporting these fourteen cases of attacks, arrests, verbal threats and legal cases to Pakistan Press Club Safety Hub Network.
Threats, Attacks & Harassment against Various Types of Media
Nine TV journalists and media assistants faced attacks, arrests while one tribal journalist was hurled verbal threat whereas two print media journalists served legal notices for reporting during September 2017. Electronic media journalists continue to take brunt of these violations of media freedom in the country.
AUGUST SUCCESS STORIES
- Balochistan government removed on September 28, 2017, name of journalist Ali Raza Rind from “the Fourth Schedule” of Anti-Terrorism Act. His name was included in the list in January 2016. Intensive advocacy and lobbying by Quetta Press Club Safety Hub, Balochistan Union of Journalists and Freedom Network brought the good news finally.
- Missing journalist from Hyderabad Ghulam Rasool Barfat returned home on September 12 after he went missing on August 5 from his residence in Sindh University Housing Society. Karachi Press Club Safety Hub and Freedom Network alerted his case in its August Data Analysis and his safe return was welcomed.
Advocacy on Journalists’ Safety by Press Clubs Safety Hubs Network
The Pakistan Press Clubs Safety Hubs Network also does extensive advocacy work to help sensitize all media-related stakeholders on safety and security of journalists and media institutions and media houses. Some of the key advocacy activities on journalists’ safety during July 2017 period included the following:
Quetta Press Club Safety Hub
- A delegation of journalists from Qila Saifullah district in Balochistan met Registrar Balochistan High Court Bar Association Rozi Khan Barich in Quetta to discuss the issue of Qila Saifullah Press Club building. Both sides said would try to find mutually agreed understating between the Law Department and journalist community. Freedom Network facilitated the meeting.
National Press Club Safety Hub, Islamabad
- National Press Club, Rawalpindi-Islamabad Union of Journalists and Freedom Network arranged a protest against attack on senior journalist Matiullah Jan and demanded immediate arrest of attackers. After the protest, a fact-finding committee was formed to probe the attack and senior journalist Hamid Mir will lead the probe.
- A close coordination and solidarity among key media stakeholders forced the federal government to probe attacks on journalists during hearing of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif in Islamabad on September 26. Minister of State for Interior Chaudhry Talal will lead the probe into attacks on three TV journalists. It follows a meeting at the National Press Club decided to launch protest