Threats Against Journalists Increase Under PM Shehbaz Govt

FN Threat Data Analysis – June 2022

Nine journalists faced offline harassment while four others kidnapped and as many others faced threats ranging from verbal threats, assaults, and legal cases for journalism works. One digital media hacking attempt of a channel was also reported as 18 cases of violations against journalists and media houses were documented and monitored during June 2022 through the Pakistan Press Club Safety Hubs Network programme, an award-winning civil liberty organisation Freedom Network is managing since 2016.

Last month – May – was the worst month for journalists facing record number of attacks – 24 cases.

Islamabad-based Media watchdog Freedom Network is assisting journalists at risks in five 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.

In view of the rising number of attacks against journalists Freedom Network decided in June 2022 to add three more safety hubs to the existing setup and increase its outreach by adding thematic chapter to cover the marginalized but pertinent segments. Freedom Network developed new partnership with Women chapter, minority Chapter and also digital media chapter. These three hubs started their work and identified some cases.

KIDNAPPED: On June 5, 2022, Umer Nahiyon, a reporter for K21 News, was abducted outside his home in Gharao, a town in Karachi’s suburbs. According to his brother, he was abducted for reporting forced occupation of land by a local builder from the villagers. However, the kidnapped journalist returned home on June 6, 2022, after Freedom Network issued ‘Press Freedom Alert’ pleading with the Sindh government to track the kidnapped journalist.

On June 13, 2022, assignment editor of Aaj News channel Nafees Naeem was picked up while he was buying groceries outside his residence in Nazimabad, Karachi. He was not detained in any police station in his jurisdiction, there was no complaint, charge or FIR registered against him, according to local police. The investigation revealed that the journalist was writing blogs for a website, but he returned home after 24 hours of being kidnapped.

On June 24, 2022, Sindh rangers arrested Arsalan Khan, a citizen journalist from his home in Karachi. They took his phone and national identification card, according to his wife. The police were not ready to file a complaint about his illegal detention, his wife told Freedom Network. Later, paramilitary force Rangers confirmed his arrest and claimed that he was allegedly in contact with terrorist groups. However, he was released within 24 hours of his kidnapping without formally charged with illegal activities.

On 20 June 2022, Sher Muhammad Sahi, a freelance journalist from Rojhan area in Rahim Yar Khan district in Punjab province, was abducted by unknown kidnappers. Sher Mohammad was recovered by the local administration after 17 days on July 07, 2022 by the local administration. He thanked Freedom Network on effective follow up with the local and provincial administration on his safe recovery.

Click the below link to read May 2022 threat data analysis report:

OFFLINE HARASSMENT:  On June 7, 2022, freelance photojournalists Iqbal Mohmand and Hussain Ali were harassed and their cameras were broken by Jamiat Ulma-e-Islam (F) workers while covering their protest rally in Peshawar. According to photojournalists, “we complained and reported the case to the leadership, but no action was taken yet by them.”

Anwar ul Haq, a senior reporter for Koh-e-Noor News channel, was harassed by the staff of a health centre in Rawalpindi on 16 June 2022 while he was on duty for his organization for news coverage. The staff used abusive language and took his equipment away. The health department authority, on the other hand, promised to investigate the incident and take appropriate action against the accused.

On 21 June 2022, 92 News reporter Sajid Sheikh and his cameraman Mansha Rang Ali were harassed by security personnel at the Metro Bus Terminal in Rawalpindi while covering daily commuter difficulties. The staff of the bus terminal used foul language and tried to snatch their equipment.

On the 27th June 2022, four journalists – Haseeb Malik of GNN News channel, Rizwan Qazi of Daily Duniya News, Tahir Nasir of Dawn News channel, and Muhammad Usman of SAMAA News were harassed by under-trial criminals of a land mafia involved in a housing society in Islamabad Judicial Complex while they were there for professional duty. In presence of police, the criminals and their allies snatched the journalists’ cameras and used harsh language. The chief justice of the Islamabad High Court ordered the Inspector General of Islamabad Police to submit report to the court after the High Court Reporters Association requested the chief justice to take action against the accused.

ASSAULT: On 20 June 2022, Haneef Baloch, a Neo News channel reporter, was beaten up by some influential people in Rajanpur district in South Punjab while covering a story about honor-killing. The police did not file a FIR against the perpetrators of crime yet.

THREATS VERBAL: On 19 June 2022, Zamin Hussain, Nia Kal newspaper reporter, received death threats from a citizen after reporting news of electricity theft in Tehsil Rojhan in Rajanpur district in South Punjab.

LEGAL CASE: On 7 June 7 2022, the Sindh government filed a FIR against ARY News anchorperson Iqrar ul Hassan for doing a programme on alleged corruption by Deputy Commissioner Mirpurkhas Salamat Ali Memon. FIR No. 67/22 was filed against the journalist for alleged interference in official affairs and obstructing the official from performing official duty.

PEMRA in Action: On June 17, 2022, the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) issued a show-cause notice to ARY News channel for airing fake news about the finance minister spending a large sum on renovations of his residence.

DIGITAL MEDIA HACKED: YouTube channel of online Naya Daur was hacked. Its name was changed to “MicroStrategy” and the settings of videos were affected. The hackers wanted to delete the content of the channel. The channel was eventually recovered by the online publication team. Naya Daur team said that the reason they were able to save their channel was because they updated the channel frequently and, hence, they detected the hacking attempt in the early stage, which helped them avert this attack, which was clearly meant to stop their active journalism on YouTube.

Threats, Attacks, and Harassment against Various Types of Media:

As many as three print, thirteen electronic media and two Internet journalists faced threats during June 2022.

Threat Actors Attacking and Harassing Journalists and Media:

State actors were involved in six cases of kidnapping and harassment of journalists while religious party JUI-F were involved in about two harassment cases and criminal gangs were suspected for being involved in other threat cases against journalists.

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