FN Threat Data Analysis – August 2023
Two Sindhi journalists were murdered, one faced threat to murder in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, another threat to harm while one was arrested in Swat district as a total of five cases of various threat categories against journalists were monitored and documented during August 2023 through the Pakistan Press Club Safety Hubs Network programme, an award-winning civil liberty organisation Freedom Network is managing since 2016.
Islamabad-based Freedom Network is assisting journalists at risks in five different categories, including humanitarian assistance, in partnership with five press clubs in Karachi, Lahore, Quetta, Islamabad, and Peshawar and Women Journalists Association of Pakistan, Digital Media Alliance of Pakistan (DigiMAP) and one for minority journalists, under Pakistan Press Club Safety Hub Network programme since February 2016.
MURDER: Journalist Ghulam Asghar Khand, associated with a Sindhi Daily Sobh, Khairpur, was killed by ‘unknown’ armed men on 7 August 2023. According to reports, Ghulam Asghar was attacked and killed by some ‘unknown’ armed men riding on motorcycles when he was sitting at his guest house in village Ameer Bux within the limits of Ahmedpur Police station. He received nine bullets and died on the spot. The body of the murdered journalist was shifted to Pir Jo Goth Taluka Hospital.
His elder brother and journalist Mushtaq Ahmed Khand were also killed during an attack on a political party in 2013 in Khairpur.
Senior journalist and political analysis Jan Muhammad Mehar working with KTN News channel in Sukkur, was assassinated on 13 August 2023 in Sukkur city. According to reports, Jan Mohammad Mahar was severely injured in the brutal assault. Mahar works as the Sukkur bureau chief for the prominent Sindhi-language Kawish Television Network (KTN News). He was ambushed by unidentified armed persons as he was leaving his office in the heart of Sukkur city.
According to Anas Ghangro, a reporter who transported Mahar to a private hospital after the attack, the attack on Mahar happened immediately after he left the channel’s office after 9pm with the intention of going home. Ghangro stated that Mahar was inside his vehicle when the assailants, who were riding a motorbike, attacked the journalist near his office. In an attempt to scare civilians, the attackers fired gunshots in the air while fleeing.
FN reported the murder of the journalist to Sindh Commission of Protection of Journalists and other Media Professionals for action. It promptly asked the SINDH IG Police to submit report. The provincial police chief directed formation of a joint investigation team to probe the murder.
THREAT TO MURDER: Hangu-based journalist Fakhr Ul Islam Kakakhel, affiliated with Daily Nai Baat and Samaa News channel, has received 22 August 2023 a “threatening letter” from militants after writing an article about terrorism. The militants told the journalist that they had earlier warned his late father but he also ignored warning and then militants attacked your home with a bomb. The militants, affiliated with banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, warned Fakhru Ul Islam “now you are following your father and with the help of Pakistani forces trying to portray our jehad as terrorism.”
Fakhr Ul Islam told FN that after receiving the threatening letter he immediately informed Israr Orakzai, president of Hangu Union of Journalists, and Samaa News bureau chief in Peshawar and shared all details with them. The journalist also brought the letter into FN knowledge. Fakhr was advised to avoid field work and restrict his professional activities and movement. An FIR is registered in a local police station.
ATTEMPT TO HARM: Militants with links with banned terror outfit Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan has issued a joint threatening letter on 19 August 2023 threatening journalists affiliated with different media organizations based in tribal districts Khyber and North Waziristan, asking them to stop supporting security forces and support militants, otherwise “be ready to face the music.” In the letter, the militants asked tribal Journalists to stop using the “Shaheed” word to the government forces and police. The letter alarmed the journalists working in the merged districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. The militant group warned the tribal journalists that they would be targeted during September in Khyber and North Waziristan districts.
A delegation of Landi Kotal Press club met with the district police officer and informed him about the threat. The delegation also met with Commandant Khyber Rifles who assured all possible support. Later, 19 members of Landi Kotal Press Club also submitted a written application in local police station for legal action.
ARREST: Fayaz Zafar, a senior journalist working for Voice of America (VOA) and Daily Mashriq, Peshawar, was arrested in Mingora, Swat, on 30 August 2023 by local police after he posted anti-administration posts on social media platforms. He was taken to the office of Swat deputy commissioner where he was allegedly tortured by police. Later, he was detained under the Maintenance of Public Order (MPO).
A jirga comprising local journalist met the deputy commissioner with request to withdraw charges against Zafar and free him at the earliest. The jirga was successful in getting the journalist’s arrest identified by the deputy commissioner.
Threats, Attacks, and Harassment against Various Types of Media:
One TV and four print journalists received threats during August 2023.
Threat Actors Attacking and Harassing Journalists and Media:
One state actor, two non-state and two unknown threat actors were believed involved in these threats these journalists faced.