FN Threat Data Analysis – April 2021
Poor law and order situation in Quetta city of Balochistan province took life of a journalist while broadcast journalist Absar Alam survived assassination attempt in Islamabad as 19 other cases of abduction, harassment, assaults, arrests, verbal threats and legal cases targeting journalists were monitored and documented during April 2021 by Pakistan Press Club Safety Hubs Network programme, an award-winning civil liberty organization Freedom Network is managing since early 2016.
Among the 21 cases reported included seven legal cases – the highest number. In Freedom Network’s annual State of Press Freedom Report 2021, legal cases against journalists emerged as the biggest threat.
Islamabad-based Freedom Network is assisting journalists at risks in four different categories in partnership with five press clubs in Karachi, Lahore, Quetta, Islamabad and Peshawar under Pakistan Press Club Safety Hub Network programme since February 2016.
MURDER: Young sub-editor Abdul Wahid Raisani was shot dead in what appeared motorcycle snatching case at around 10pm on Qambrani Road area in Quetta city on 24 April 2021. The fatal shooting happened as the journalist was leaving his home for office duty in the evening. The journalist was working in the newsroom where newspaper production process begins around 10pm to deliver copies in market early morning. Raisani was working with Daily Azadi newspaper. Quetta is provincial capital of Balochistan province and law and order situation is desired to improve much. A suicide attack targeted the heavily guarded Serena Hotel on 22 April 2021 where the Chinese envoy in Pakistan was also believed to arrive. He was safe in the attack.
MURDER ATTEMPT: Broadcast journalist Absar Alam, who also headed Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority during previous government of PML-N, was shot and wounded 0n 20 April 2021 in the most-visited F9 Park in Islamabad with around one kilomentre distance from the Prime Minister’s House and the attacked fled after the assassination attempt, police confirmed. He was rushed to a nearby hospital where he was treated for his wounds as his condition was stated stable. Alam was not involved in active journalism these days but he posted critical tweets about the military. No group claimed responsibility for this attack. In a video message he recorded during being moved to the hospital, the journalist said: “My message to those who did this is that I am going to be scared by such tactics.” No arrest has so far been made.
KIDNAPPED: TV journalist Malik Naveed, who works for Kohi-e-Noor channel, was reported missing from his home in Gujranwala district in Punjab province on 15 April 2021. His family said the journalist was taken away after he took his Sehri. “There is no word about him,” his family told police who had not registered a First Information Report yet for unexplained reason. Reporter Abdul Waheed said the wife of the missing journalist was desperate to find any clue to her missing spouse but she was getting no assistance from nowhere.
ARRESTS: Tribal journalist Ala Khan Wazir was arrested in Wana, headquarters of South Waziristan, on 14 April 2021 and sent him behind bars by the local administration for covering public meeting of ‘Pushtun Tahafuz Movement’ in Wana. The journalist is member of Wana Press Club and runs online ‘Zaagh News.’ He was also fined Rs.10,000. Wana Press Club held a protest demonstration and demanded of Wana administration to free the journalists unconditionally.
DETAINED: Freelance journalist Shahid Aslam was detained on 3 April 2021 in office of Senior Member Board of Revenue (SMBR) where he went to get opinion of Babar Hayat Tarar who was accused of wrongdoing when he was the secretary Cooperative Department. “The SMBR got furious when I sought his response to a story, I was doing about him. He called his security guards who detained me and snatched my mobile also,” the journalist shared details of his detention. “The guards also snatched my laptop. I was allowed to leave the office after complete body search was done,” Alam said. Local police station in Anarkali refused to get his complaint registered nor did the Lahore Police chief help him anyway.
OFFLINE HARASSMENT: Mehar Khadim Hussain, reporter of Faiz TV Network, was not allowed to cover an evet at the government-run Ehsas Centre High School in Uch Sharif in Bahawalpur district on 2 April 2021. There the government was donating Rs12,000 to each woman as assistance. “I was stopped from entering the centre and my camera was snatched. The officials there used harsh language giving no reason why media is disallowed to cover the event,” the journalist said. The local police did not help him either. The journalist was returned his belongings.
On 13 April 2021, Daily Dunya newspaper photographer Amjad Hussain was stopped from taking photos of sit-in of Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) on 13 April 2021 in Lahore – two days before the TLP was banned by the federal government. “Police used abusive language, snatched my camera and beat me up as well,” the photographer told his colleagues. He was returned his camera after senior journalists intervened and talked to senior police officials.
In Multan, 92 News channels reporter Muhammad Asif was beaten up by police in Multan city of Punjab province for trying to cover the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) public protest on 13 April 2021.
In Lahore, Jahan Pakistan photographer Sadaqat Mughal faced similar situation while trying to cover the TLP protest on 13 April 2021. The police snatched his camera and returned only when the issue was taken up with senior police officials.
ASSUALTED: Digital journalist Jamal Nasir was assaulted on 21 April 2021 after he ran a story on his digital platform about alleged wrongdoing at the government-run centre where needy women were given financial assistance. The story was about alleged corruption in the financial assistance distribution, the journalist said. Five armed men attacked me on Indus Road. “They (attackers) were furious at the news I ran earlier. I saved my skin after some passers-by intervened and let me save me from the attackers,” Nasir told his colleagues. The police arrested the accused after the journalist lodged a complaint. However, the court freed the accused on bail.
On 3 April 2021, Bol News channel’s reporter Kamran Minhas came under attack after he filed a report on “parking mafia.” The journalist received minor injuries during the attack. Local police did not get case registered against the accused after the journalist tried to lodge complaint.
VERBAL THREATS: 7 News channel reporter Shahid Khan was threatened verbally on 3 April 2021 for his report about nurses in Dera Ghazi Khan district in Punjab province not attending patients. The journalist said his report showed nurses disregarding the patients instead busy in mehndi. He said the report angered the administration and one Malik Abbas visited his office to threaten him verbally saying: “You would be killed at our hands.” The journalist lodged a complaint against the man but local police did not move against him.
In Lahore, local Takmeel newspaper editor Arsalan Haider received call from “unknown number” on 6 April 2021 and threatened him for carrying a report about Punjab Higher Education Commission (PHEC). “I was threatened of dire consequences if did not stop reporting (alleged) corruption in PHEC,” the editor said. The call follows attempts from the PHEC chairman to stop the report publication. “I did not register complaint because the caller belongs to powerful institution,” he said. “The call terrorized me.”
In Rawalpindi, local newspaper Daily Saekar deputy editor Saleem Bukari reported that in charge Survey Department of Chaklala issued life threat on 11 April 2021 after local residents’ grievances against the draftsman were published in his newspaper. The issue was taken up with senior police officials and later the draftsman said it was a case of “misunderstanding.”
LEGAL CASES: A total of six cases were registered against as many journalists in Punjab (three), Sindh (two) and Islamabad (one).
In Hasilpur tehsil of Bahawalpur district, an assistant commissioner got cases registered against three journalists – Mudassir Hussain, Sajid Chaudhry and Tahir Iqbal – after they put hard questions about shortage of sugar in Ramzan bazaars the Punjab government set up to help people get kitchen items on subsidized rates. The journalists were sent to lock-up after the police registered cases.
A case was registered against senior journalist Noorul Islam by Mangho Pir Police Station in arachi on 3 April 2021. The issue was raised with senior police officials to probe the charge and it was discovered that the police registered a fake case against the journalist. The journalist was released later.
In Karachi, management of Jasarat newspaper filed on 17 April 2021 a case against journalist Masood Anwar for highlighting death of an employee of the newspaper. Masood was himself employee of the newspaper serving it as “editor reporting” since 2014. He was dismissed from services while on leave to quarantine himself after contracting Covid19. Anwar was upset at the death of another employee of the newspaper and raised the issue in his columns. The newspaper management filed defamation suit of Rs.50 million against the sacked employee in a local court.
In Islamabad, custodian of a shrine, Naveed-ul-Hasnain Kazmi, moved against journalist Naveed Nisar Abbasi, reporter of Daily Taas, for “violating his privacy” right. The journalist took up the issue with senior Punjab government authorities who ordered an inquiry into the matter. The inquiry’s findings found the shrine custodian “guilty” stripping him of the responsibility and placed the shrine under Punjab Department of Auqaf.
Bannu-based journalist Hidayatullah, who is also finance secretary of the National Press Club, Bannu, was booked after his report in Kasoti newspaper alleged wrongdoing by Food Department personnel in sugar sale. The Food Department officials registered a case against the journalist who just covered local traders’ news conference on 29 April 2021 alleging that the Food Department in connivance with local police officials were involved in sugar blackmarketing and hoarding in Bannu city. The news conference was covered by other journalists also. However, the administration arrested Hidayatullah and put him in lockup on 29 April 2021 for 24 hours before registering an FIR against him the next day.
He is the second journalist after Ghulam Akbar who also reported alleged irregularities in sugar sale in neighbouring Lakki Marwat district. The Food Department filed a case against him for his journalism work.
ATTACK ON KPC EMPLOYEES: Supporters of a Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (Fazlur Rehman group) leader Maulana Umar Sadiq attacked employees of Karachi Press Club on 24 April 2021 after they refused entry of armed guards of Umar Sadiq. The press club management reacted to the incident banning the JUI-F leaders’ entry into the club and contacted police for action against the accused.
PEMRA In Action
Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) served show-cause notice on Express News TV channel for “unethical words” in its show “Khabardar.”
Threats, Attacks Against Various Types of Media
Nine broadcast and as many print while three online journalists faced these cases during April 20121.
Threat Actors Attacking and Harassing Journalists and Media:
State authorities (12 cases) were believed involved as in five cases hospital staff, a newspaper management and custodian of shrine’s involvement was suspected and remaining in two cases the threat actors remained unknown.
Photo caption: Late Journalist Abdul Wahid Raisani