Balochistan: A minefield for journalists
KHUZDAR: Outside the Khuzdar Press Club stands a column topped with the likeness of a hand cast in iron and holding a pen. The imposing structure seems to celebrate the notion of a free press. The reality could not be more different.
In 2014, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) ranked Khuzdar, the capital of Khuzdar district in central Balochistan, among the world’s 10 most dangerous cities for journalists.
The same year, Amnesty International described the area as a “graveyard for journalists”, after at least six media persons were murdered here in the preceding few years. Among them were two of the press club’s presidents and its general secretary. It was a chilling message to the journalist community as a whole.
The threats were unrelenting.
“Some of my colleagues in Khuzdar stopped answering their phones,” recalled a journalist in Quetta. Several reporters moved to other towns for safety; some gave up journalism altogether.
Twice, the press club was shut down: the second time for a year. Khuzdar Press Club President Mufti Siddique Mengal told Dawn: “We closed it out of fear because we realised we couldn’t do journalism any longer. When [the state was] faced with recrimination from the outside world, they forced us to open.”
Khuzdar district, indeed Balochistan as a whole, still remains a graveyard for journalism.