Critical journalists are targeted by political and religious parties | Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Pakistan Press Foundation

Critical journalists are targeted by political and religious parties

Pakistan Press Foundation

According to Ziaur Rahman, a journalist associated with the Voice of America, during the Islamabad sit-in in 2014, he was harassed several times by the political party workers, and it even reached the point of hand-to-hand combat. A few years ago, workers of a religious party also did the same. He was harassed several times due to which he suffered severe mental trauma.

Where governments and government institutions create obstacles in the way of freedom of the press, the workers of some political and religious parties of the country also harass the workers of media houses for not getting adequate coverage or for broadcasting news against their party and narrative. and torture them. This extremism about the media among religious and political party activists has gained more momentum in the last few years.

Ziaur Rahman is associated with ‘Voice of America’ while also working as a reporter with several local TV channels. Ziaur Rehman said that there have been several incidents with him when he was harassed during the coverage of political and religious parties and on some occasions, he was also subjected to torture.

According to Zia-ur-Rehman, during the Islamabad sit-in in 2014, he was harassed several times by the workers of the political party, and it even reached the point of hand-to-hand combat. A few years ago, workers of a religious party also did the same. He was harassed several times due to which he suffered severe mental trauma.

He said that he informed his organization in this regard, while a complaint was also filed by his organization to the police, but due to religious pressure, the police did not take any action. In addition, in recent months he has been harassed by activists of a political party at Minar Pakistan, Mall Road and Canal Road. When he informed his institution about these incidents, he was instructed to keep himself safe and stay away from matters that could create problems for him.

Sadra Dar, a female journalist who works for Voice of America, says that when Imran Khan came to Karachi to address a rally in 2014, she was working with Geo News while Geo was working with PTI. Relations were strained. At the end of the rally PTI workers surrounded his (Jio) car, he and the cameraman were on the roof of the car. The PTI workers shouted abuse and pelted stones at the vehicle. It was the most painful day of his life which he will probably never forget. Sidra Dar said that then some other senior journalists including Azhar Abbas came and explained to the PTI workers after which they dispersed.

Geo News female reporter Dua Mirza said that two years ago, during the recording of the New Year celebrations, she was abused and harassed by the workers of a religious group. When she went to the police with a complaint, a senior police officer advised her not to file an FIR as she would not be able to pursue the case. According to him, our system is not strong enough to provide security to every individual. They will harass you more. However, if you want to file an FIR, it will be done. However, considering the advice of the police officer and the circumstances, he did not file an FIR.

Reporters and cameramen working in the field sometimes face challenges due to their institution and newsroom policies. Talib Faridi, a journalist and senior reporter associated with a large media group in Lahore, said that in 2021, when the workers of Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan protested and held sit-ins in different cities of the country, at that time TPLK in Lahore. He was mistreated by workers and was barred from coverage.

Another senior reporter, Saqib Saleem Butt, also said that he was also misbehaved by the workers during the protests and sit-ins of the TLP. The TLP workers complained that other channels including their organization, instead of showing their protest and dharna, showed how much trouble people were facing due to the protest and the traffic was blocked. According to the workers of Tehreek Labeek, the media shows the negative side of protests and sit-ins.

For the past 18 years I have been beating religious parties myself. I am well aware that religious parties give more respect and honor to media workers than political parties. If they go to cover their rallies, processions and press conferences, they offer tea, water and sometimes food, while on the other hand, journalists stand for hours outside the offices of political parties and the houses of political leaders, so no one gives them water. Doesn’t even ask.

In my opinion, this herd of religious parties is somewhat correct that the media does not cover their peaceful protests, sit-ins and programs, but if there is a bitter conversation and clash with the Antamiya, then it is exaggerated, which makes the religious parties is defamed.

Mistreatment of media workers by political parties is also caused by the policies of media house owners and newsrooms. In the past, the PTI did not invite rival TV channels, including Geo News, to their programs and were not allowed coverage. While Maryam Nawaz Sharif also removed the microphone of RY News in a press conference and they were not allowed to cover the programs of Muslim League-N. This practice of the central leadership of the political parties is followed by their workers at the lower level and then misbehaves with the workers of the media houses.

Secretary of Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists Rana Azim says that harassment of media workers by political and religious parties and their workers, torturing them and preventing them from coverage is undemocratic and illegal. PFUJ has always raised its voice against such incidents. Political and religious parties who consider themselves champions of democracy and religion have a deplorable attitude towards channel and newspaper workers who disagree with their narrative and thinking. They do not tolerate differences of opinion and resort to violence, bullying and threats.

Rana Muhammad Azeem says that not all political and religious parties are like that, even today the majority are of parties whose workers respect the media and their workers. He said that where cases of mistreatment of media workers have come to light, in most cases the policy of these media workers’ organizations or the personal behavior of these media workers has also become the main reason. Unfortunately, some of our media workers are also so emotional that they do not tolerate a little talk.

Under the Punjab Transparency and Right to Information Act, 2013, an attempt was made to get information from the Punjab Police about how many incidents of violence against journalists by religious or political parties have been reported in Punjab from 2018 to June 2023. No official response to this RTA has been received yet, however, Punjab Police officials said that no such category-wise data is compiled, so it is difficult to tell how many journalists have filed any such complaints. Similarly, Punjab Union of Journalists, Lahore Press Club and Electronic Media Reporters Association also do not have any such data, except for a few important events which are reported in newspapers.

However, in a report released by the media watchdog Freedom Network in May this year, it was stated that acts, attacks and threats against journalists in Pakistan have increased by more than 60 percent. According to the report, 140 incidents of threats and attacks against journalists were reported between May 2022 and March 2023. Islamabad ranks first with 56 incidents of violence against journalists . 35 cases of torture on journalists have been reported in Punjab and 23 in Sindh. The data shows that press freedom violations increased from 86 in 2021-22 to 140 in 2022-23, an annual increase of nearly 63 percent. The report further stated that violations of freedom of press in Pakistan are continuously increasing every year.

On the other hand, Punjab’s caretaker minister for information and culture Aamir Mir said that the Punjab government has established the Punjab Journalists Protection Coordination Committee for the protection of the journalist community. The committee will investigate and redress abuses against journalists. The official notification of the committee has been issued by the Punjab Home Department. According to the notification, Deputy Inspector General Legal Punjab has been appointed as the convener of the committee and the committee includes President PFUJ, President PUJ, President Lahore Press Club, PJSC Punjab Chapter and Executive Director Freedom Network as members. are According to provincial minister Amir Mir, the committee will ensure the safety of journalists in the province and act as a liaison between district police officers and journalists.

According to the caretaker provincial information minister Aamir Mir, the committee will take notice of any abuse and violence against journalists and will recommend appropriate measures after reviewing the incidents. Aamir Mir said that the caretaker government fully believes in the freedom of media and the objective of this committee is to ensure the safety of the journalist.

Source: Naya Daur (By Asif Mehmood)

Comments are closed.