International media organisation condemns attacks on journalists
PESHAWAR: International media watchdog Reporters Without Borders condemned on Wednesday three recent attacks on journalists Â– two of them by policemen — in Peshawar.
A reporter was badly injured when a TV crew was ambushed on August 22. A TV crew covering an area that haad been attacked by a suicide bomber was brutalised by police in the Tribal Areas on August 19. Lastly, police raided the headquarters of an Urdu-language daily on August 6.
“The attacks are taking place at a time of increasing physical danger for the media in which journalists are often the targets of reprisals. Not a month goes by without a journalist being murdered and the frequency of cases of police violence against the media has grown markedly since the start of the year,” the Paris-based organisation said in a press statement.
“There is an urgent need for a reaction from the Pakistani authorities,” it added. “If security measures are not adopted quickly, coverage of the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the neighbouring Federally Administered Tribal Areas will become impossible for local journalists, who are caught in the crossfire of violence from various sides.”
The organisation also said, “The police should be investigating these cases of violence against the media but, instead, their actions are adding to the dangers for journalists. We urge those in charge of the Peshawar police to adopt firm measures to put an immediate stop to the police abuses, which in some cases have been extremely grave, and to punish those responsible.Â”
A crew from a private news channel was ambushed in a high-security area near government buildings and the high court in the centre of Peshawar at around 2:30pm on August 22. The crew consisted of reporter Hazrat Khan Mohmand, desk editor Syed Waqas Shah and technical manager Gul Sher. A person from an online newspaper affiliated with the channel, Nisar Khan, was also in their vehicle.
As police looked on, the TV crew’s route was blocked by men using two motor-cycles and a car who fired shots and hit Mohmand with stones, inflicting him with a serious head injury. Shah said he requested help from the police but they made no attempt to provide assistance. Mohmand was rushed to the Lady Reading Hospital in a serious condition. The attack was thought to have been prompted by the channel’s coverage of an alleged case of corruption involving Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain, who denied having anything to do with the attack and accused the TV station of defamation and broadcasting baseless reports.
Another private news channel’s bureau chief Shaukat Khattak, cameraman Imran Khan and Anwar Khan, the operator of their digital satellite news-gathering (DSNG) truck, were detained and tortured by police in the Peshawar suburb of Hayatabad on August 19 after going to a Hayatabad hospital where victims of a suicide bombing in a mosque had been taken for treatment.
“We had come with our DSNG truck to the hospital where the injured were taken after the suicide bombing of worshippers in the mosque in the town of Jamrud, in the Khyber Agency. When we arrived, we were told that there was a risk of another suicide bombing and that the media should stay away. We followed police instructions but a policeman hit me from behind while I was talking on the phone,” Khattak told Reporters Without Borders.
The three TV men were then taken to the Hayatabad police station where they were held for several hours until fellow journalists intervened to obtain their release. Khattak said that the police inflicted serious hand injuries on his cameraman and DSNG operator. “I think they have fractures because the police hit us with great violence,” he said.
The beating of the three journalists came just days after police chief Fayyaz Toroo appointed a commission to examine the growing number of cases of police violence against the media. It was the subject of a demonstration by journalists outside the office of the province’s chief minister and it was also condemned by Khyber Union of Journalists president Arshad Aziz Malik.
Police searched the headquarters of an Urdu-language daily on August 6 claiming that a criminal had taken refuge there. The raid prompted protests by many journalists and, under pressure, police chief Toroo suspended the officers responsible for the raid. Pakistan is the world’s deadliest country for the media, with eight journalist murdered so far this year.
Source: Daily Times