Attacks on Media in Pakistan: PFUJ report -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Attacks on Media in Pakistan: PFUJ report

Karachi, May 02: At least five journalists, one editor were killed, six were kidnapped and tortured by intelligence agencies, while over 50 journalists of print and electronic media were injured, as new trends of violence against the journalists emerge in Pakistan in 2006, says a report of Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), on the International Press Freedom Day.

The latest was Charsadda (NWFP) suicide bomb blast on Pakistan’s Interior minister Aftab Sherpao, in which four journalists were injured.

Beside attack on journalists, even their families were not spared and brothers of two journalists were killed, forcing one of them to leave his home, while several in the tribal areas quit the profession.

Photojournalist Shoaib Khan, who lost his right eye during a suicide bomb blast on April 12, last year, had even lost his speech and could hardly walk. PFUJ through its report appeals to different segment of society to help Khan, for his recovery and return to normal life.

Out of six journalists abducted, one of them, Hayatullah Khan, was killed, while others were released after physical torture.

PFUJ lauded the role of the private news channels, but urged the need for more professionalism and training.

Almost all the private news channels remained under “official scrutiny,” received “Press advice,” with some of them facing unofficial “suspension,” fine or taken off air; TV licenses were blocked for political reasons. The channels that came under attack and faced pressure were Geo, ARY One World, Aaj Sindh TV, KTN, Royal TV and TV Today, while one channel Roshni was closed due to financial reasons.
PFUJ expressed concern over the sudden closure of some TV channels due to financial crisis without paying legal dues to their employees and called for proper working structure of the electronic media. Some channels are not paying salaries promptly.

PFUJ in its report called for “safety measures,” “life insurance,” “free medical cover,” and “safety training,” for their staffers particularly for reporters and cameramen, photojournalists.

Reports revealed that for the first time dozens of journalists in the tribal areas of NWFP and Baluchistan had “quit” journalism, mainly because of threats, both from security agencies as well as from the pressure groups. At present there are few journalists left in these areas who work as stringers for certain international media.

Last year, at least five journalists, one editor were killed; over 50 media-men were injured in attacks on media men, mainly by the police and law enforcement agencies.
The most dangerous trend noticed last year was the kidnapping of journalists allegedly by the intelligence agencies, with the abduction and killing of tribal area journalist Hayatullah Khan being among the worst.

The report demanded of the government to release the inquiry report of slain tribal area journalist Hayatullah Khan, conducted by a Peshawar High Court Judge, which has now been put on the back burner.

PFUJ urged the Chief Justice of Pakistan, Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, to disclose the findings of the report as it must have been submitted to him as well.

Cameraman Munir Sangi, of Sindhi language private TV channel, the Kawaish Television Network, KTN (details and date of violence incidents given below), was shot dead while filming the tribal feud in Larkana district. The influential tribe Unar, now reported to be using pressure to “silence,” his brother Hadi Sangi.

PFUJ suspects the role of a provincial Sindh minister in protecting the killers of cameraman of the KTN, Munir Sangi, and using police pressure on his brother Hadi Sangi. A false case has been registered against Hadi to force him to settle Munir’s case in a “jirga.”

The year 2006, also saw new dimensions in violence against journalists. In the past, just the journalists and newspaper offices were attacked, but last year an even more bizarre element crept into the sordid episode, the journalists’ families having to face the spectre of loss of life or danger to personal safety.

Brothers of slain journalists Hayatullah Khan and Dilawar Wazir were also killed. The BBC’s correspondent, Wazir, had moved from Wana to Dera Ismail Khan, because of threats and attack on his family and his residence.

Pakistan tribal areas bordering Afghanistan, Wazirstan, and nearby areas remained the most dangerous place for reporting. Similarly, reporting also become difficult in the interior of Sindh, and in areas like Dera Bugti in Baluchistan, where Journalists come under pressure or threat from local tribesmen and police.

Never in the past has the electronic media come under so much attack as over the last 12 months with violent attacks on reporters and cameramen working for leading news channels like Geo ARYOne, Aaj, KTN, Sindh TV.
Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) used the law against some of these channels either directly or through cable operators.

The report said the government had also failed to resolve the murder cases of two senior journalists Mohammad Ismail and Maqbool Sial. There were also two other incidents in which a reporter of a Sindhi daily Ibrat was killed and in another incident editor of local Urdu daily of Sukkur “Nijat,” Makhdoom Rafiq were killed this year. The motives behind the murder continue to be a mystery

PFUJ is deeply concerned over the highly malevolent and intolerant stance of the authorities whereby even the next-of-kin of “errant” journalists are being ruthlessly eliminated. Taimur Khan, brother of BBC correspondent, Dilawar Khan, was killed while child Bashir Khan, younger brother of Hayatullah Khan, was also killed.

PFUJ has withheld the findings of the ordeal of the abducted journalists for safety and security of their colleagues.

In view of the rising incidents of violence against the journalists, an International Mission visited Pakistan at the invitation of PFUJ, which included the President of the International Federation of Journalists, (IFJ) Christopher Warren and the President of National Union of Journalists, (NUJ), UK, Chris Morley, and met the victims, government officials, rights group in Islamabad, Lahore and Peshawar.

The Mission in its report released early this month called for immediate local and International action to address the crisis facing the Pakistani media community. Action needed in pursuing the journalists’ killers, immediate implementation of the 7th Wage Award, labour law reforms, and the development of a culture of safety and security of journalists, particularly in the tribal areas.