The state has cast a wide dragnet to haul up all those allegedly involved in the May 9 rioting, while also using the opportunity to weaken the PTI. However, there can be no excuse for the hundreds of journalists that have been hounded by police just for carrying out their professional duties on the day of the mayhem.
Sadly, the methods are straight out of the colonial playbook; the state has used these tactics for decades to teach all those who have come in its way a lesson. According to the Lahore Press Club president, around 250 journalists and other media workers have complained of police harassment post-May 9.
It is likely that the media personnel were identified through geo-fencing when they were in the field covering the protests in key areas of Lahore after Imran Khan’s arrest. Particularly disturbing is the fact that family members of some media workers have also been picked up. The Lahore High Court has been petitioned to stop this flagrant abuse of authority, while the caretaker Punjab administration has also formed a committee to look into the matter.
While the wholesale crackdown on all PTI sympathisers cannot be condoned, the targeting of journalists who were simply doing their jobs has no justification whatsoever. The federal energy minister has described the ongoing actions as the “process of filtering the criminals from the onlookers”.
This cannot be used as an excuse to harass journalists and media workers. As it is, the media fraternity faces a difficult working environment in Pakistan, and journalists often put their lives on the line in the course of discharging their duties.
Using the anti-PTI crackdown as a cover to threaten journalists is not to be tolerated, and the Punjab government must stop this campaign of fear. The administration must also reveal the whereabouts of anchorperson Imran Riaz Khan, who has been missing for the last two weeks.