Pakistan Press Freedom Report 2007 | Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Pakistan Press Foundation

Pakistan Press Freedom Report 2007

Attacks on Journalists and Media Organizations during 2006


Media organizations and journalists in Pakistan were targeted by government authorities, militant groups, intelligence agencies as well as political and religious groups during 2006. Journalists throughout Pakistan were killed, abducted, injured, harassed and intimidated while fulfilling their duties.

Most journalists in tribal areas have either been forced to give up their profession or leave their home town. The few that remain, limit their coverage to innocuous topics such as school functions and activities of administration officers.

Though journalists in urban areas have stronger backing, and though the journalist community remains strong, few if any responsible for attacks on media, have been held accountable.

Television channels and radio stations have also suffered at the hands of groups who would rather present ‘different’ versions of the unfolding events.

Violent Attacks on Journalists

Journalists Killed

Hayatullah Khan

On December 5, 2005, Hayatullah Khan, a 29 year old tribal journalists was kidnapped while on duty. Six months later, his murdered body was found. This brutal incident reveals the imminent dangers faced daily by journalists throughout Pakistan as they strive to uncover and reveal sensitive stories and security issues prevalent in Pakistan.

Khan started his career in journalism in 1998 as a correspondent for the Rawalpindi based Urdu daily Ausaf and had made many enemies and received numerous threats during his decade long tenure. Currently a reporter for the Ausaf, and the European Press Photo Agency, he was a resident of Mir Ali in North Waziristan; a restive tribal district bordering Afghanistan which in constant turmoil being located at the center of ongoing conflicts between local tribes, Taliban, Al-Qaeda and Pakistani security forces.

According to his brother Ihsanullah also present in the vehicle, Khan was abducted by five men armed with AK-47s after they forced his car off the road. This incident took place a day after he released photographs illustrating the destruction caused by a US made Hellfire missile used to kill Hamza Rabia, a senior Al-Qaeda official residing in Miran Shah. The photographs contradicted the Governments version of Rabia’s death which stated he died in a blast caused by explosives within his house and not from an aerial attack.

On June 16, Khan’s handcuffed body was found 4 km from his home town in the Khaisore Mountains. He had been shot twice in the head and thrice in the chest. He body was recovered in the same clothes in which he had been kidnapped and showed signs of starvation and neglect. Khan was the third journalist to be killed while covering the war on terrorism.

In 2002 when Khan joined ABC TV as a cameraman, he along with four companions was detained in Afghanistan by US forces on suspicion of spying for the Taliban. After nine days of interrogation and only after the forces were able to verify their identities and credentials were they released. Upon his return to Mir Ali, Khan also became the correspondent for the national daily The Nation and the European Photo Agency.

As the situation in Waziristan worsened, pressure on Khan increased, and authorities deemed his news coverage anti government. In a number of news reports, he contradicted official claims that persons killed in army operations were foreign militants, by identifying them as local residents. He became a constant irritant for administration and law enforcement agencies and in November 2003, received a warning from intelligence agencies to either leave North Waziristan or quit journalism.

On the fateful day when he was kidnapped, Khan, along with four companions, was en route an assignment to cover a demonstration, when three kilometres from Mir Ali, five armed men stopped his car and demanded he go with them. The abductors guise with their long hair, long beards and attire, was very Taliban like and thus the family contacted the local Taliban in search of Khan. The Taliban however, cleared their position with a written statement asserting no involvement in the abduction. Ihsanullah believes the Taliban have established their credibility of honesty and thus dismissed them as the culprits.

The local administration according to Ihsanullah, changed their story thrice. First they said Khan had been kidnapped by a debt enforcer, then by the Americans and finally by the Taliban. A Pakistani colonel told Ihsanullah that Khan had been handed over to the Americans in the first week of February. However, the New York based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), the Pentagon and the FBI said he was not in US custody. The family contacted the US embassy and were categorically told the same. The family believes this to be true as well.

On December 6, the assistant Political Agent asked Ihsanullah to register a missing persons report. However, instead of registering the report, officials repeated the demand made by the intelligence agencies that Khan leave the area or change his profession. This message was also relayed through the tribal chief.

According to Ihsanullah local intelligence officers were working at cross purposes with policies being pursued by higher officials and the local officers were outraged that foreign forces were conducting attacks on Pakistani territory and thus urged Khan to release the news and photographs about the missiles. Family members believe that the top level ISI officers were opposed to the release of photographs of the missiles.

Press reports, quoting Khans wife Mehrunnisa, said he received 20 phone calls from intelligence officers on 2 December 2005, urging him to release the photographs and reports depicting that Rabia had been killed by an American missile. She said she warned him local intelligence officers were trying to lure him into a trap him but to no avail. Khans brothers met local intelligence officers many times, and were assured that the journalist was safe and would be released soon, as the local situation improved. In order to prevent further complications and delays the brothers refrained from public statements and demonstrations on the same.

Khan belonged to the Daur Tribe, one of the two main tribes of the area. Though the tribe supported the family by launching manhunts and initiating demonstrations, their efforts were to no avail. Ihsanullah said Naik Ghuman, the national assembly representative for their area, did not take much interest in the case. Media organisations in Pakistan and international press freedom and human rights organisations called for serious efforts by the government to enquire into Khans whereabouts.

In early June, Khans’ family took his small children to meet political agents in North Waziristan. They were assured Khan was in the custody of higher authorities, and would be released within two to three weeks.

The journalistic community was shocked at the murder and protests that followed his death. International organisations also expressed their outrage at the events that transpired. The government ordered a judicial inquiry which was conducted by Justice Raza Khan of the Peshawar High Court. His report was presented to the Supreme Court in august 2006 and later handed over to the government.

Munir Ahmed Sangi

Sangi, a cameraman for the Sindhi language Kawish Television Network (KTN) received a fatal shot on May 29 while covering a gun battle between members of the Unar and Abro tribes in the town of Larkana, in Sindh. At least one other person was also killed in the clash.

According to media reports a fierce gun battle broke out between Unar and Abro tribes following the murder of Wali Muhammad Abro. When Sangi reached the village to cover the battle, Unar tribesmen opened fire on the journalist. He died on the spot. Local police said Sangi was killed in the crossfire. However, his colleagues believe he may have been deliberately targeted for a previous report on a meeting of Unar tribal leaders punishing a male and female youth.

DIG Larkana Range Akhter Hussain Gorchani arrived at the scene and had the venue cordoned off. Over 29 suspects were arrested and local journalists carrying the dead body staged a sit in at Jinnah Bagh Chowk. The Sindh Chief minister Dr. Arbab Ghulam Rahim announced a compensation of Rs 300,000 for Sangi’s family and employment for one family member. He also ordered the suspension of Dr. Akhtar Daiyo MLO CMC Hospital, for delaying the medico legal report on Sangi and for negligence in official duty.

Malik Mohammad Ismail Khan and Maqbool Hussain Sial

Two other journalists, Maqbool Hussain Sail of the Online News Agency, and Mohammad Ismail, Bureau Chief of the Pakistan Press International, were killed on September 15 and November 1 respectively. However, to date it remains unclear if their deaths were related to their professions.

Journalists Injured

Eight Media Workers Injured In Bomb Blast

Eight media workers were injured in a bomb attack while covering a religious gathering of thousands of people celebrating the birth anniversary of the Prophet at Nishtar Park, Karachi on April 11, 2006.

Shahid Hussain, a press photographer, lost one eye in the blast and remains in hospital, as does Javed Jeaja. Other injured journalists include two photographers: Qayyum and Shakir Suleman, two cameramen: Aziz Khan and Usman Shareef, one reporter and the driver for the private channel. The blast claimed 57 lives and seriously injured close to a 100 others while damaging infrastructure and equipment in its wake.

The IFJ supports the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) in their call for media employers to provide greater protection for journalists, including safety provisions for their equipment.

Deputy Chairman of the Shabqadar Press Club Rehmanullah Shot

Rehmanullah, 35, a correspondent in Shabqadar, of the Peshawar based Urdu daily Subah and the deputy chairman of the Shabqadar Press Club, was shot and wounded at around 8 pm in the evening on November 1, 2006 near his home.

His car was sprayed with more than 20 bullets by attackers with beards, black turbans, and long hair. Rehmanullah was wounded in the thigh, but was able to flee to a nearby residential area where locals helped him to a hospital. The attack on Rehmanullah could be related to his coverage of militant religious groups operating in the area. His colleagues said he had been threatened in the past, particularly by Islamist militants.

Journalists held a demonstration in Shabqadar to urge the government to afford greater protection to journalists.

Journalists Attacked at Thari Mirwah Press Club

On June 14, 2006, about 50 persons attacked Thari Mirwah Press injuring six newsmen by punching, kicking and beating them with sticks. The attack was reported to be connected to a news story about the use of substandard material by contractors in the construction of irrigation water courses.

The assailants, many of whom were on a tractor, barged into the press club, beat journalists, ransacked the club damaging furniture and equipment while chanting slogans against them.

The injured journalists include Mumtaz Ali Shar, President of the Press Club and reporter for the Sindhi language daily Khabroon, Mehmud Ali Phul, reporter for daily Kawish and KTN television network, Hafiz Baloch, reporter for Sindh Television Network, Safiullah, reporter for daily Koshish, Mukhtiar Qasmani, correspondent for daily Sham, and Illahi Baksh, a reporter for daily Sobh.

The police were able to reach the press club in time to arrest a number of the attackers and filed criminal complaints against them.

Correspondent of Daily Shaam, Assaulted and Humiliated in Dhoro Naro

On August 28, 2006, Umer, Soomro, correspondent of the daily Shaam in the rural town of Dhoro Naro, in Sindh, was abducted and assaulted by two individuals: Qamar Mangrio and Maula Dad, at the behest of the town mayor Ali Bux Mangrio.

The local police refused to register a criminal complaint against the abductors. Soomro criticised the local police and the district administration for not taking action, and approached the Hyderabad Press Club to seek help.

Soomro said the Mayor was angered when the newspaper published reports of bias in the distribution of relief goods among persons affected by the recent rains. According to Soomro, the town mayor asked Qamar Mangrio to teach the journalist “a lesson”.

Activists of Ruing Party Storm Peshawar Press Club, Beat Journalists

Activists of Pakistan’s ruling Muslim League (PML-Q) party stormed the Peshawar Press Club on June 29, 2006 to foil a news conference being held by dissident leaders of the party. The intruders, who were armed with Kalashnikovs, pistols and sticks, beat the journalists and the dissident party members.

A police team reached the venue after the attack and arrested six intruders and seized their weapons. The management of the club lodged a complaint against provincial PML-Q President and Federal Minister Amir Muqam, Provincial Information Secretary of the party Nighat Orakzai, and heads of the party’s youth, labour and students wings for the attack. The club also announced a boycott of PML-Q functions and their press releases, and decided to cancel the membership of any club member who covers any PML-Q event.

Members of the club and the Khyber Union of Journalists announced that they would not negotiate with any PML-Q leader until those named in the criminal complaint were arrested. They held a protest walk to the chief minister’s secretariat and staged a sit-in. Though the press club has been attacked before, this was the first time it was done by supporters of the ruling party. Local journalists said it was an attempt to stop the press doing its job,

C. R. Shamsi, Deputy Editor of Daily Ausaf Beaten By Bodyguards of Federal Minister

C.R. Shamsi, the deputy editor of Daily Ausaf and former secretary general of the PFUJ, was attacked in Islamabad on September 13, 2006 by the bodyguards of the federal labour minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan.

Shamsi wanted the ministers’ comments regarding the proposed countrywide protest by journalists against the non-implementation of the Seventh Wage Award for journalists, but the minister avoided making any comments. When Shamsi insisted, the minister told his driver and bodyguard to “teach him a lesson.”

Mohammad Ali Durrani, Minister of Information and Broadcasting offered ‘unqualified apologies’ for the incident and assured the National Assembly that the government would ensure impartial legal proceedings after journalists complained that a police station in Islamabad had received Shamsi’s written complaint but refused to register an FIR against the labour minister.

The labour minister admitted in the assembly that he had had a ‘brief exchange of words’ with the journalist before driving off to his home but said he was unaware of who carried out the attack. He accused the journalist of using a ‘bitter tone of conversation’ and showing an ‘aggressive attitude’.

Shamsi, in his report to police, said one of Khan’s three guards punched his face, damaging an ear drum. The guards also injured a visitor from Lahore who tried to rescue the journalist.

The News Correspondent, Shakil Anjum, Son and Nephew Beaten

On September 13, two men opened fire at the house of Shakeel Anjum, a correspondent for The News, injuring him, his son and his nephew. Anjum suspects the attack was ordered by a local politician who was the subject of one of his recent articles. Anjum has reportedly been critical of Rathore in his articles and faced threats since he covered a story on the extra judicial killing of two men in May 2005.

On September 17, Idrees Rathore, a police officer from a Police Station in Islamabad had implicated Anjum in a triple murder case of Haji Nawaz Khokar, Kashif Nawaz and Abid Hussain. The inclusion of Anjum’s name in the FIR shocked the journalist community. An inquiry into his implication was initiated by Islamabad SSP Sikandar Hayat and a three member team was formed to investigate. This exercise by the Islamabad police was apparently aimed at harassing Anjum, who in the past had exposed Inspector Idrees Rathore in a number of cases where he embarrassed the force with his mishandling of cases.

Photo Journalist Beaten By Police in Faisalabad

A photo journalist in Faisalabad was manhandled by a police sub-inspector and three constables on Wednesday February 1, 2006. Amjad Ali was photographing police officials while they were allegedly receiving gratification from pillion riders at Ghau Shala Chowk. This infuriated the police officials who snatched the camera and manhandled him. He subsequently submitted a complaint to the District Police Officer.

Journalists Beaten At Funeral of Slain Religious Leader in Karachi

Supporters of a slain religious leader sprayed bullets on the van of a local television channel on July 15, in Karachi. Masked armed activists were firing in the air at the funeral procession for religious leader Allama Hassan Turabi when four bullets hit GEO TVs van. The shots caused other journalists and mourners to flee the venue.

On 14 July, the day Turabi was killed by a suicide bomber, Adeel Khan and Qasim Khan, cameramen for ARY television, were attacked by outraged mourners, who also tried to burn their motorcycles.

Journalist Beaten and Arrested by Railway Police

Rizwan Thebo, correspondent of “Apna TV” in Nawabshah, was beaten and arrested by railway police while taking footage of their actions against the encroachment on railway land in Nawabshah on January 23, 2006. According to press reports, railway police snatched Thebo’s camera, press card, cash and papers.

Local journalists held a protest demonstration outside the Hyderabad Press Club to condemn the act and demanded the government take action. They said this incident proved that the state and its machinery oppose freedom of press.

Journalist Beaten by Traders in Bhakkar

M. Shabir Rao, correspondent of daily Nation and Nawa-e-Waqt was beaten by traders as he filed a report on encroachments and corruption in Bhakkar on April 3, 2006.

According to Rao, Abdul Hakeem Mughal, Chief of the Traders Association Bhakkar and his associates assaulted Rao with sticks and leather whips. Rao’s son was also beaten as he attempted to help his father. The traders snatched Rao’s mobile phone and wallet and threatened him with dire consequences. Two traders were arrested but later released

Superintendent of Police Slaps and Kicks Journalist in Peshawar

On May 2, Superintendent of Police (SP), slapped and kicked Wahidur Rehman Khalil, correspondent of the AVT Khyber television channel, who was covering the death of a tribesman by levy personnel in Peshawar.

Syed Bukhar Shah, President, Peshawar Press Club; Intikhab Amir, President, Khyber Union of Journalists; and Shehzad Ahmad, President, Photographers Association condemned the incident and said they would take up the issue with senior police authorities.

Journalists Abducted

Dilawar Khan Wazir, Correspondent for BBC and Dawn, Questioned, Beaten and Detained

Dilawar Khan Wazir, correspondent for BBC and daily Dawn, was abducted and detained for 24 hours by unidentified persons on November 20, 2006.

Khan was seized from the outskirts of Islamabad while on his way home in Dera Ismail Khan. He was snatched from his taxi and shoved into another vehicle before being blindfolded. Subsequently he was kicked, slapped and questioned about the sources of his reports on the fight between the Pakistan army and the pro Taliban militants.

The journalist’s family has also been targeted on a number of occasions. Unidentified persons tried unsuccessfully to lure Khan’s brother, Zulfiqar Ali, into accompanying them on the pretext that the journalist was seriously hurt in hospital. According to the BBC, when Ali called his brother’s mobile, a man identifying himself as Dr. Jamshed said Khan was hospitalized at PIMS. The BBC said one of its reporters went to the institute but found no evidence of either Khan or the purported physician. Ali told the press that he feared Pakistani intelligence agents may have detained his brother.

In February 2005, two journalists in the same car as Khan were killed when bullets were fired at their vehicle in the town of Wana in South Waziristan. Khan survived unhurt and left his home in Wana and moved to Dera Ismail Khan after receiving threats from militants.

Journalist Kidnapped and Assaulted

Journalists in Nawabshah observed a token hunger strike on January 19 demanding the arrest of attackers of a fellow journalist. Adam Jamali, President of the Sarhari Press Club, was kidnapped and assaulted by on Eid day. He was admitted to PIMS where he was found to have sustained a number of fractures.

The protesters said that police were not registering an FIR and the culprits were roaming free. They urged the authorities to direct the police to arrest the criminals and provide security to journalists. Activists of various political and social organizations also joined the strikers’ camp.

Journalists Threatened

Journalists Threatened by Jirga Leaders

Sarmad Kamrani of the Daily Ibrat and Sindh TV, and, Mubarak Bhatti of the Daily Koshish and KTN, in the town of Thul, received death threats on June 15, from feudal lords for reporting on a quasi-judicial decision of a Jirga, to hand over for marriage, five minor girls, to a rival family in order to settle a murder dispute.

Kamrani and Bhatti said they have been receiving threats from the local feudal lords for reports that were initially published and broadcast in the Sindhi language newspapers and television channels, and were later picked up by the national media.

Bhatti said twelve persons came to his house on June 15 and threatened to kill him unless he stops filing news of the Jirga’s decisions. Kamrani said a leading gangster of the area came to his office on June 14 threatened him with dire consequences and smashed his computer. Kamrani temporarily came to Karachi for safety and a police guard has been provided for protection of Bhatti.

A leading Jirga member allegedly destroyed the Sindh TV bureau office in Jacobabad on June 14 saying that if they did not stop reporting on the Jirga there would be dire consequences. An office worker, Ali Nawaz was also reported to have been badly beaten in the attack.
The Sindh Chief Minister, Dr. Arbab Ghulam Rahim, formed a committee consisting of the DPO Karachi Mushtaq Maher, and town police officers, to investigate this case and report back to him. However no arrests have been made so far.

Journalist’s Home Broken into, Computer and Documents Stolen

On March 12, 2006, unknown persons broke into the house of Rasheed Channa, a reporter of The Star, in Karachi. They took away his computer, data CDs, some personal files, various documents, and some valuables, including Rs. 4,000 in cash.

Channa claimed, however, that this was not a case of simple robbery, as the personal files, data CDs and newspaper clippings taken had no monetary value. He also said he had received threats a few days before from Muhammad Ali Arain, special secretary to Chief Minister Arbab Ghulam Rahim, for publishing stories about corruption.

The incident is reminiscent of Channa’s July 2005 experience, when plain-clothed police detained him and seized his computer, CDs and personal files. Rashid Channa was picked up on Sunday by police officials on the orders of a civil servant responsible for running the chief minister’s office in Karachi. Opposition parliamentarians and journalists organizations have condemned his arrest and criticized the government for gagging the press by striking at the very roots of freedom of expression.

A spokesman for the Dawn Group of Newspaper issued the following statement on the matter and appealed to national and international organizations to rally in defense of Channa and the newspaper group in defense of press freedoms:

‘’Today at approximately 13.30 hours Rasheed Channa, reporter of our evening newspaper The Star, was picked up from his residence in Karachi by unknown and uniformed police officials escorted by a police vehicle. Channa is assigned to The Star in Karachi for covering affairs pertaining to the performance of the Sindh government. Till the time of the issuing of this statement, the whereabouts of Channa were unknown to us and to his wife.

Police and intelligence officials had denied his arrest and any knowledge of his present whereabouts. The arbitrary detention and/or arrest of Channa appear to be closely linked to the stories filed by him pertaining to the Sindh government, the conduct of its officials and of Arbab Ghulam Rahim, the Chief Minister. The detention of Channa appears to have taken place as a consequence of the latest salvo fired by the Sindh government against the Dawn Group of Newspapers, which publishes the most influential English language newspapers and magazines in Pakistan.’’

Tribal Journalist Receives Death Threat

A tribal journalist received an anonymous telephonic threat on July 22 for reporting on the situation in Khyber Agency. Mehboob Shah Afridi, general secretary of the Tribal Union of Journalists in Khyber Agency and correspondent for an Urdu daily, said he received a phone call threatening to kill him and destroy his office if he did not stop reporting on the situation in Bara, the Khyber Agency headquarters.

Journalists Arrested

Two Pakistani Journalists Detained in Afghanistan by Taliban

Two Pakistani journalists were arrested by Taliban forces on November 21, in the southern Helmand province of Afghanistan and put on trial on unknown charges. Saleem Shahzad, correspondent for The Star and the Hong Kong based Asia Times Online, and Qamar Yousufzai, had been detained by Taliban commander, Matiullah.

The Taliban in Afghanistan said they were holding two Pakistani journalists because they were travelling without relevant documentation. The Star reported that Shahzad had called his family to say he and his colleague Yousufzai had been detained by the Taliban and had been put on “trial” by a Taliban “court” but did not know why. Shahzad, who has reported widely on the activities of the Taliban on both sides of the border, was in Afghanistan to cover the rebel movement. The detained journalists were released five days later.

Television Channel Correspondent Released after Four Months

KTV correspondent Mehruddin Mari was abducted on June 27, 2006, by police between the towns of Jati and Golarchi was released on October 24 after four months of torture by intelligence officers

According to press reports Mari , who covered political and human rights issues in the area, suffered months of interrogations, beatings, and torture, including electric shocks, in an attempt to make him confess to ties with the Baloch nationalist movement.

Two Journalists Handed Over to Police after Months of Undocumented Internment by Intelligence Agencies

Mukesh Rupeta, correspondent of The News and “Geo TV”, and his cameraman Sanjay Kumar were handed over to police custody for seven days, following the registration of a case against them at the airport police station Jacobabad, on charges of filming Jacobabad airbase and preparing fake national identity cards and passports.

Police sources said, on a complaint of SHO Airport Police Station Ashfaq Kalhoro, a case has been registered against Rupeta and Sanjay Kumar under sections 464, 465, 471, and 3 PPC, after which both the accused were produced in the court of Jacobabad Civil Judge Hafiz Atta-ur-Rehman.

Rupeta along with his cameraman Sanjay Kumar was picked by the law enforcement agencies personnel on March 6, 2006 on charges of filming the military airbase used by US forces. Rupeta alleged he had been mistreated in custody and said the charges against him were false. “I can’t tell you what they have done to me. I thought I would be killed the way they treated me. I cannot tell you all from the lock-up”.

The confirmation of the arrests came a day after Geo expressed concern for Rupeta’s safety following his arrest. The government denied all knowledge of his whereabouts while Geo said the discovery of journalist Hayatullah Khans body in North Waziristan tribal area a week earlier, increased their fears about Rupeta. Manzoor Khoso, a police officer in Jacobabad. Rupeta and Sanjay were arrested under the Official Secrets Act.

According to a spokesperson for “Geo News”, the only information they had from the authorities was that Rupeta had been detained and was being interrogated. Officials said Rupeta would be handed over to the police on conclusion of the investigation, which was done.

Journalists in Jacobabad staged protests at the press club and urged the government to ensure the immediate release of their colleagues. Rupeta was granted bail on June 23 2006.

Sub-editor of Daily Business Recorder Abducted, Tortured

Saeed Sarbazi, senior sub-editor Business Recorder, joint secretary of the Karachi Press Club, and member of National Executive Committee of All Pakistan Newspapers Employees Confederation’s (APNEC), was abducted by intelligence agencies in September 2006 and released a day later, after being beaten and kicked unconscious. He was blindfolded for and denied food or sleep.

According to Sarbazi, he was dropped from a truck blindfolded, near Karsaz from where he hauled a taxi home. He told reporters he was dragged from his car by unknown kidnappers who covered his face with his shirt. “I told them that I am a journalist but they told me that I am a terrorist,” he told a press conference at the Karachi Press Club after he was released. “I was interrogated about my personal and professional details, my family members, and my connection with the so called Baloch Liberation Army,” he said.

Sarbazi had previously written on disputes and political unrest in Balochistan. In 1998, Sarbazi was attacked and seriously injured for his reporting, apparently by drug dealers.

Director of Baloch Language TV Station Abducted

Mengal, a founder and the Director of the Baloch language TV station based in the UAE, Baloch Voice, Mengal, is still missing since his arrival in Karachi from Bahrain on April 4, 2006. His family thinks Pakistani military intelligence officers arrested him at the airport.

According to his brother Ali Akber Mengal, he called from the Airport stating he has been arrested by the Anti Corruption Officials (ACO) and that they have seized his documents. That evening the ACO said that Mengal has been taken by unknown intelligence agencies and since then there has been no contact between Mengal and his family.

Mengal’s wife filed a case on April 22, 2006 in the Sindh High Court for the suspicious disappearance of her husband, and with the assistance of HRCP lawyer Abdul Hafiz Lakho she got hearing date Tuesday, 02 May in the court of Justice Sabihuddin Ahmed. Mengal’s sister stresses that “he has no links with any political parties.’’

Karachi based journalists said he thought the military intelligence agencies were trying to uncover the origin of Baloch Voice’s funding. “In view of the extreme tension prevailing in Baluchistan, the army is wary about the launch of this new station and must suspect foreign financing,” a journalist with a national daily said on condition of anonymity.

Journalists Detained and Harassed

Five journalists: Masood Khan, Anwar Hakim, Haseen Ahmed, Zafarullah and Mohammad Ibrahim, were harassed and detained by officials while travelling with a group of journalists and lawyers to the tribal region of Bajaur to investigate the killing of 83 people on October 30, 2006. According to the PFUJ, some journalists, including a correspondent of a private TV channel, Nowsherwan Qalandar, were also beaten up by personnel of levy forces.

Two Peshawar based journalists, Haroon Rashid of the “BBC Urdu Service”, and Mehmood Jan Babar of “AVT Khyber TV”, were denied access to Bajaur on October 31, 2006. Soldiers are scrutinizing every vehicle entering the area and have been given strict orders not to let any journalist go to Khar, the capital of Bajaur, or to the site of the air strike. “You are not welcome … we have orders to turn back all journalists,” the two reporters were told. A third Peshawar-based journalist was denied access to the district as well.

Earlier during 2006, the authorities arrested journalists heading to Khar to cover an air strike on the village of Damadola that reportedly left 13 dead.

Abdul Aziz Lassi, Bureau Chief, Daily Intikhab Detained

Abdul Aziz Lassi, bureau chief of the daily Intikhab, was abducted on February 15, 2006 in Hub. He had just photographed the bodies of three Chinese engineers murdered in the province, in clashes between security forces and armed groups. According to press reports Laski was abducted by intelligence agencies and held for one day.

Police Assault Journalist, Detain Photographer, Seize Equipment

Carlotta Gall, reporter of for The New York Times was beaten while the newspaper’s photographer Akhtar Soomro was detained on December 19, 2006.

According to the US-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Gall, who covers Pakistan and Afghanistan for The New York Times, said men who claimed they were from the Special Branch of Pakistan’s police detained Soomro in his hotel around 8 pm, and seized his computer and camera. When Gall tried to stop them from taking the photographer Soomro, she was told, “He is Pakistani, we can do whatever we want with him.” He was released the next day, unharmed. Four men later broke into her room in a separate hotel, hit her and took away some of her belongings. Gall said she had bruises on her arms, temple, and cheekbone, swelling on her left eye and a sprained knee.

“They were extremely aggressive and abusive. The leader, who spoke English, refused to show any ID,” Gall said. The men accused of her of being in Quetta, the capital of the Baluchistan province without permission. They said she had been interviewing Taliban members in Pashtunabad, a section of Quetta.

Journalist Detained in Landikotal

Three journalists were arrested by a senior administrative official in Landikotal in Khyber Agency in FATA, on June 26, 2006 and released after 24 hours of detention.

According to media reports Khalil Afridi of daily Khabrain, Sudhir Afridi of daily The Frontier Post and Abu Zar Afridi of daily Express were summoned to the office of a senior administrative official in Landikotal to apologise for interviewing Mangal Bagh, head of the Lashkare Islam. The official ordered their arrest as they refused to apologise for taking the interview, but they were released after 24 hours detention as the local Jirga intervened in the case.

All three were also held for a day on June 26 by the authorities in the Khyber Tribal Area for interviewing a religious leader sought by the security services.

Railway police detain journalists in Karachi

Railway Police detained journalists after they were attacked by parking contractors of Cantonment Railway Station, Karachi on, Thursday, March 30, 2006.

According to Adil Jawad, reporter daily Express, the parking contractor of Cantonment Railway Station attacked Shabir Ahmed, a reporter of daily Ummat with iron rods following a row over non payment of parking charges. The contractor became outraged and started beating the journalist along with his colleagues. Shabir called other journalists for help including Adil Jawad and the journalists went to Railway Police Station at Cantonment to launch a complaint.

The SHO of Railway Police, Baqar Gillani promised to investigate the situation. However instead, he used delaying tactics till Shabir was brought to the police station while constantly being beaten. When other journalists tried to come to his rescue, the SHO detained Jawad, Shabir and Niaz Ahmed (daily Jassarat) instead of arresting the contractor. The SHO released the journalists when the journalist community staged protest outside the police station.

Journalists Hindered

Journalists restricted entry into Commerce Ministry

The Ministry of Commerce (MOC) has restricted entry of media persons into its premises in an attempt to restrict reporting on trade related issues, particularly on the ongoing trade negotiations with foreign countries.

According to press reports, the MOC issued a circular on January 31, 2006 in which officials were directed to avoid meeting journalists, otherwise punitive measures will be taken against them. This circular said, “It has been notified that the information relating to certain policy issues under consideration of the ministry of commerce has been published in the print media before these were finalized. This has not only put the ministry in an embarrassing position but also created confusion for the general public”.

It further said that as per standard operating procedure, only the official representative of the MOC was authorised to release information to the media. “The visiting journalists may be politely told to contact the official spokesman if some information relating to the ministry is needed. Violation of these instructions will constitute ‘misconduct’ within the meaning of government servant (conduct) rules 1964 and dealt with accordingly,” the circular added.


TV journalists beaten by police; cable operators told to stop broadcast in Lahore

On September 17, 2006 police in Lahore, assaulted and injured two journalists and a cameraman at a public rally by Sunni Tehrik, a religious political party.

Press reports quoting Wadood Mushtaq, a senior reporter for “ARY” television network said he witnessed two dozen policemen beat Nazir Awan, a reporter with “ATV” television channel. Inquiry by Mushtaq as to why a journalist was being beaten led to other crew members being assaulted as well. Mushtaq was beaten in the face and “ATV” cameraman Zahid Malik was beaten mercilessly. Malik and Awan were rendered unconscious, while Mushtaq was beaten into a state of semi-consciousness. The journalists were then detained in police custody. Mushtaq received injuries to his head, face and back; Awan’s arm was fractured and his entire body bruised, and Malik suffered a spinal injury.

40 minutes later, the bureau chief of “ARY “and the Punjab public relations director general, arrived at the police station to ensure senior police officials authorise the transfer of the journalists to hospital.

Federal, provincial and city journalists’ bodies condemned the police assault on these journalists. ÇM Punjab, Chaudhry Pervaiz, ordered the immediate dismissal of the officers responsible and departmental action to be taken against them. A handout from the government of Punjab said that the CM had warned that no leniency would be shown to the policemen involved in the incident. City police authorities suspended two police officers and filed a case against them.

However, despite the pronouncements by the Chief Minister, the provincial government continued on the path of confrontation and asked district police officers throughout the province to make cable operators discontinue the transmission of “ARY” after the channel condemned the assault on the journalists. A spokesman for “ARY” said the provincial government had no authority to do so under the law, and asked PEMRA to intervene.

PEMRA Suspends Transmission of “Sindh TV”

The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) on November 8 ordered cable TV operators to stop transmitting “Sindh TV”. No reason was given for suspending the broadcasts of the privately owned channel.
Press reports quoting “Sindh TV” News Director Razzaque Sirohi said he did not know why PEMRA had ordered cable operators to stop broadcasting the channel. However, the suspension could be linked to the channels coverage of honor killings, the Dargai suicide bombing, and / or the situation in Baluchistan. The Executive Director of the television channel Karim Rajpur told the press the order had come from Islamabad.
Reporteres Sans Frontieres (RSF) strongly condemned the suspension of transmission of the television channel.

Websites Blocked by Telecommunication Authorities

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) blocked 12 websites on February 28 for posting the controversial cartoons published in the Danish. They included the blog platform Blogger (, which hosted one of the websites that posted the cartoons. Access to the entire platform was blocked within Pakistan, with the result that millions of blogs disappeared from the Pakistani Internet. The ban was lifted on May 2, 2006.

This PTA order came after a petition calling on the government to ban the spread of “blasphemous content” through the Internet, was submitted to the Supreme Court. The court on March 2 formally asked the government to comply.

On April 25, the PTA ordered the blocking of five websites for posting “misleading information”. Four blocked sites were accused of having ties with nationalist and militant Baloch leaders that have been waging an insurgency in the province. PTA said the decision to ban them was reached jointly with the government.

On July 26, 2006 the PTA added 34 web addresses to the list of blocked sites. For the most part they were websites and online radio sites of Baloch and Sindhi nationalists. Two Sindhi sites added to the blacklist, included one operated by the Washington based World Sindhi Institute, which promotes Sindhi nationalists views.

Two Afghan TV Channels Banned in Pakistan

On March 16, 2006, PEMRA barred local cable operators from airing two Afghan TV channels because these stations blamed Pakistani intelligence for the March 12 suicide attack on a senior Afghan political figure in Kabul. Islamabad has rejected allegations of involvement.

Press reports quoting PEMRA officials said Afghan based stations “Tolo TV “and “Arina TV” were barred from being telecast in Pakistan because they were involved in broadcasting negative propaganda against Pakistan. The two channels are mainly watched by the ethnic Pakhtoons in the provinces of Balochistan and NWFP.

Press reports quoting privately run “Tolo TV” issued a statement condemning the ban, saying the channel always attempted to present balanced stories on national, regional and international issues. The statement added that the Pakistani embassy in Kabul had rejected requests to discuss the ban.

Illegal FM Shut Down in NWFP, FATA

Political authorities, on February 22, 2006 shut down five illegal FM radio channels in different parts of Bajaur Agency. The operation against these channels was launched on the directives of provincial Governor Khalilur Rehman. Sources said the local authorities had given a two weeks deadline to the owners to voluntarily close the operations. On expiry of the deadline, the authorities initiated the operation, seized equipment and sealed the stations.

In 2004, the authorities had closed several illegal FM radio stations, but they restarted operation after some time. Presently, there are more than 20 radio stations operating without permission in the tribal agency and they primarily run religious programs.

The action was initiated after a leader of the banned Tehrik Nefaz-i-Shariat Muhammadi, Maulana Faqir Mohammad, relayed lectures on his illegal channel against the government and the local administration following US air strike in the Damadola village in the Bajaur Agency.

On May 22, 2006, police, in NWFP, seized equipment from and shut down 87 FM radio stations which were operating illegally from religious seminaries and mosques in various districts of the NWFP. Law enforcement officials said the operation had been carried out after conducting joint raids with PEMRA representatives. They said they had earlier told the illegal radio station operators to cease their broadcasts through official notices.

Press reports quoting a police official said. ‘Jamia Masjid’ or main mosques and Madaris in Charsadda, Nowshera, Mardan, Swabi, Lower Dir and other districts, were running these FM radio stations without obtaining any license from PEMRA. A Naib Nazim in the Daggar Nari village of Karak was also operating an FM radio station illegally from his Madrasseh police officials said.

Many seminaries and mosques of the province are running their own FM radio stations and transmitting their sermons and views of their school of thought. The clergy are apparently using FM radio stations to preach and teach the Holy Quran, and to propagate their views on political and social issues, officials said.

PEMRA is conducting fortnightly raids in liaison with the local police. Its officials said curbing this illegal activity is a challenge as the FM radio machines can be manufactured by local technicians. “FM radio transmitters can be manufactured for as little as Rs. 5,000 and these radio stations start operating again once they are closed by us,” said Javed Iqbal, PEMRA general manager in the NWFP.

Earlier, PEMRA had said that there were some 62 FM radio channels in settled areas of NWFP and 49 in the FATA and PATA. PEMRA is working in liaison with the police and other intelligence agencies to block the transmissions of these FM radio stations as they are creating a law and order situation and their frequencies are causing security hazards.

July 19. , PEMRA announced it had taken 156 FM radio stations off the air to stop the spread of religious extremism and anti state sentiments, notably among Pashtun tribes near the Afghan border. The raids have been conducted by PEMRA and local officials in tribal areas during the last six months.

Press reports quoting a PEMRA spokesman said although regulations do not extend to the tribal areas PEMRA is coordinating with local authorities and police to jam or shut down these illegal stations”. He said 94 stations had been operating illegally, and transmitting their religious and political views. “The rest were closed down by the local authorities,” he said.

Video Cassettes Destroyed

A large number of workers of the banned Tehrik Nifaz-e-Shariat Mohammadi set fire to thousands of video cassettes, VCR and TV sets on March 27 in Mingora in the Swat district of NWFP.

In a ceremony in Kuza Banda in Swat, attended by 6,000 persons, Maulana Mohammad Alam and Maulana Abdul Haq said that VCRs and TVs were spreading vulgarity and obscenity among the locals. They added that the people of Swat were voluntarily destroying the equipment. The speakers warned the government to ban FM stations broadcasting transmissions in the area. Around 150 TV sets along with 210 VCRs and 6,000 cassettes were torched on the occasion.

Meanwhile the city police set alight hundreds of ‘obscene’ film CDs and posters at Chowk Yaadgaar, Peshawer on Aug 02. Police torched CDs of Pashto, Punjabi, Urdu, Indian and English films, stage dramas and songs and posters of film actresses, and even some cricketers. Police officials claimed that the CDs had obscene movies. The anti-obscenity drive in the city was launched by the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal after it formed the provincial government.

Newspapers Set on Fire

Masked gunmen torched newspapers in Mirali in North Waziristan Agency on April 24, 2006, when the publications branded them ‘terrorists’ and demanded that they be called Mujahideen or Taliban. The four masked militants stopped vehicles loaded with regional and national dailies, at gunpoint in the Mirali bazaar and set the newspapers on fire.

Press reports quoted Taliban sources as saying that if newspapers don’t change their policy towards Mujahideen, they will take action against vehicles carrying newspapers as well as their local correspondents.

In an unrelated incident in the province of Sindh, copies of the daily Dawn were snatched from hawkers and news stands and were set on fire in front of the Hyderabad Press Club on October 22, 2006.

An unidentified caller telephoned the Hyderabad press club and said Dawn would be taught a lesson. The incident was reported to the Cantonment police station. The president of the Hyderabad press club Shahid Shaikh condemned the incident and described it as an attack on freedom of the press. The Hyderabad Union of Journalists also condemned the attack.

Cinemas Damaged During Protest Rally against Danish Cartoons

In Okara, on February 13, 2006, a joint rally by religious parties and traders’ bodies, turned violent and damaged four cinema houses, in addition to pillaging two petrol pumps.

Reports said the rally was organized by MMA, JUP, JUI (F) Sunni Tehrik, Mustafai Tehrik, Jamiat Ahle Hadith, Minhajul Quran, Pakistan Medical Association and Anjuman-i-Tajran to protest against blasphemous caricatures published by some European newspapers.

The protesters, who were carrying placards inscribed with slogans against the foreign governments, demanded a boycott of products from those nations. They burnt effigies of the US President, British Prime Minister and some European flags. They demanded President Musharraf expel the ambassadors of these countries and announce a boycott of their products.

The protesters turned violent and stormed the petrol pump on GT Road. They also damaged four cinemas and a billboard. They broke the window panes of Sanam Cinema, destroyed some film boards at Venus Cinema, damaged Gulistan Cinema and broke the gate of Palace Cinema, damaging its lobby, chairs and screen. They also set ablaze a motorcycle parked inside the cinema.

A group of protesters blocked the track of Quetta-bound Jafar Express which was cleared by the authorities concerned an hour later. Violent youngsters entered the Qari Colony and Sindhu Colony and damaged grocery shops in their wake. Meanwhile, hundreds of protesters blocked the GT Road causing a traffic jam. Police controlled the violence after about four hours.

Radio Station Closed

The PFUJ, on October 3, 2006 condemned the closure of FM 103 radio station in Balakot by PEMRA, just a few days before the first anniversary of the worst earthquake in Pakistan’s history. A statement issued by the PFUJ termed the action discriminatory and an attack on the freedom of expression.

The statement also said that in the past the authorities had taken action against FM 103 in Lahore and the latest action was an attempt to silence the station as it had been critical of the government’s efforts to help affected areas, and broadcast stories about misuse of funds meant for rehabilitation. The statement said that if PEMRA or any other government agency had any objection to any programme of FM 103, they had the option to take them to court in accordance with the law.

Television booster blown up

A television booster of the state run Pakistan Television (PTV) was blown up by rockets fired by unknown armed men in the restive Dera Bugti area of Balochistan province, on January 6.

PTV’s transmission was suspended in Dera Bugti after an exchange of fire between security forces and Bugti tribesmen following the damage.