PFUJ disputes govt claim of press freedom
KARACHI, May 03 2006: The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) has disputed the government’s claim of ‘complete freedom of the pressÂ’ in the country and said that the situation, on the contrary, is quite gloomy. In its “Report on Media-2005-06”, the PFUJ cites the ‘suspicious circumstances around the kidnapping of Hayatullah Khan (a North Waziristan-based journalist), over one dozen court cases under draconian laws, arrests of two editors and the baton-charging of journalists’ demonstrations in Lahore and Islamabad’ as examples of ‘repression, intimidation and harassment of the Pakistani media.’
The report said that over the past 12 months, the government had used a variety of legal means to silence and intimidate the media. In this regard, it quoted cases registered against Afzal Nadeem of the evening newspaper ‘Awam’ and Asad Ibne Hasan of ‘Daily News’, for alleged ‘anti-state’ activities. It also mentions the arrest of Karachi-based journalist Rashid Channa on July 24, “which is thought to be linked to stories he wrote about the Sindh government and the conduct of its chief minister”. It is reported that Channa’s arrest was one incident in a series of steps taken by the Sindh government against the Dawn Group of Newspapers.
The report said that the steps, according to the Dawn Group, included a ban on all government advertising in the group’s publications by the Sindh government in an attempt to silence critical opinions expressed in the group’s newspapers and magazine. In July 2005, the media became the victim of a nationwide crackdown for allegedly promoting hatred and carrying anti-state writings, and four journalists were arrested and three newspapers were raided and eventually banned.
The report charged that while the government paid lip service to freedom of the press, it introduced a new legislation that resulted in the silencing of foreign broadcast media. The report also presented a detailed account of journalists and press workers who faced hardships while discharging their professional duties.