Militant Separatist Group Forces Press Club’s Shutdown In Balochistan

Freedom Network July 2017 Data Analysis Report

Pakistan Press Club Safety Hub Network, managed by Islamabad-based Freedom Network organization, documented six cases of violations against 24 print and TV journalists countrywide under five categories during July 2017. These violations include written threats to print and TV journalists, abduction of a print journalist, legal case against editor, publisher, columnist under blasphemy law and shutting down press club in Balochistan. These violations have taken place in all the four provinces. Among the threat, actors included state institutions, a banned separatist “Baloch Liberation Army” group, Pakistan Muslim League (N) and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s members and guards.

PRESS CLUB SHUTDOWN: The most serious violation was naked threat from banned separatist “Baloch Liberation Army” group to 17 journalists in Baluchistan’s Kharan district asking them to stop reporting and shut down the press club since July 17, 2017. “We are not reporting nor going to press club following the threat,” Safar Khan, president of Kharan Press Club, confided. The journalists reported the threats to government authorities who what these journalists said had not extended “any support yet” to help reopen the press club. All the 17 journalists took the threat seriously and they are not doing journalism since then.

LEGAL CASE: A case under Section 295A was registered against printer/publisher and editor of Daily Jahan-e-Pakistan and columnist Dr Sheikh Wali on July 11, 2017, in Police Station Islampura, Lahore, after the article regarding Hazart Ali (RA) leading to “anger” in the Shia community and they protested in Lahore. The community through an organization filed application in Islampura police station for a case, and police registered it. On July 16, a delegation of journalists, headed by president of Punjab Union of Journalists, met Law Minister Rana Sanaullah who ordered the Lahore capital chief police officer to stop raiding to arrest the accused person.

ABDUCTION: The Nation reporter Abdullah Zafar returned home 20 hours after he was abducted from his residence in Karachi on July 09. He told Karachi Press Club Safety Hub manager that he was taken away in Police armoured vehicle and made subject to torture. He said he faced the situation for his comments on social media about “missing persons.” He is the second journalist after Zafarullah Achkazai, who is booked now under controversial Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA) law for sharing posts on his social media Facebook page.

HARASSMENT AND ASSAULT: Senior officials of Federal Investigation Agency harassed and restricted on July 20 a group of TV journalists, including a female journalist, from performing professional duty to report admission arrested government official Zafar Hijazi’s admission to PIMS hospital on health ground. Miss Saba Bajhir, Malik Irfan from 24 News channel and Eitzaz Hussain of Dawn News channel were made subject to harassment. The FIA officials and family members of the arrested official made these reporters hostage and misbehaved with them. Their cameras and other belonging were snatched also.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf leader (PTI) Imran Khan’s personal security guards abused photojournalist Raja Mudassar on July 12 in Banigala, private residence of the politician. The photojournalist reported to National Press Club Safety Hub Network that he wen to cover PTI chairman Imran Khan’s presser in Banigala and his personal security staff “abused me physically” and torn his cloths despite showing media card. PTI media cell was contacted on this issue and matter resolved with the contentment of the said journalist.

Captain (retd) Safdar, who is son-in-law of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and member of Parliament on Pakistan Muslim League (N) ticket), abused, humiliated and insulted senior journalist Shahid Matela, working for ARY News channel, and framed serious accusations against him during the live telecast of his media briefing outside the Federal Judicial Academy in Islamabad on July 6. Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists and National Press Club Safety Hub took exception to the elected parliamentarian’s behavior towards the journalist.

DIGITAL THREAT: Daily Akhbar Khyber bureau chief Nadeem Tanoli and his reporter Shahzad Yousafzai said IESCO official Ali Zulqarnain Kyani put record of their mobile calls data before them and said that he was following digitally to warn that if their news triggered any inquiry against him the journalists would pay a price. National Press Club Safety Hub extended full support. Pakistan Telecommunication is approached to seek inquiry how access to data of individuals’ calls data was allowed.

Threat Actors Attacking and Harassing Journalists and Media

For the second consecutive month, state institutions and non-state actors are targeting media. Police and other law-enforcing personnel abducted The Nation reporter Abdullah Zafar while police booked printer/publisher and editor besides columnist for article seen as “blasphemous” and the banned separatist Baloch group forced closure of a press club in Kharan district and stopped 17 journalists from working.

Threats, Attacks & Harassment against Various Types of Media

In July, 21 print and four TV journalists were targeted. A senior government official accessed classified phone calls data of two journalists to warn them against doing any investigative stories about the official.

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:

Lahore Press Club Safety Hub

  • Shared draft journalists protection bill with all parliamentary leaders in the Punjab Assembly through Freedom Network. The leaders included Law Minister Rana Sana Ullah, Khurram Watto of PPP, Opp leader Mahmood Ur Rasheed and Dr Waseem Akter of Jamiat-e-Islami.

Karachi Press Club Safety Hub

  • A meeting with The Nation reporter Abdullah Zafar was held at Karachi Press Club to get first-hand information about his abduction by state authorities.
  • Separate meetings were held with president, secretary and members of Governing Body of the Karachi Press Club on 15, 16 July to brief them on operational aspects of the safety hub.

 

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