PAKISTAN PRESS FREEDOM REPORT 2011
Press Freedom in Pakistan
Press freedom has never been consistent in Pakistan. Different regimes used legal and constitutional means to control the press from public debate and criticism. In it sixty years of history, Pakistan has been ruled by military more than the civilian. Press in Pakistan usually faces threats, violence, economic pressure, etc. The country’s law on blasphemy has been used against journalists. Poor literacy, urban orientation of the press, and the high price of newspapers are detrimental factors for the under development of print media in Pakistan. Beside these barricades, one can now easily notice a shift from the centralized broadcasting to an open competition broadcast system in Pakistan, enabling the audience to enjoy more power of selective exposure.
During the four years of ruling democratic government, press was operated in a mixed character. However it gives press an important place in Pakistan, government also imposed bans on TV channels and newspapers on and off.
Media was targeted by militant groups, government authorities, intelligence agencies as well as political and religious groups during 2011. Scores of journalists throughout Pakistan were killed, abducted, injured, harassed and intimidated while performing their duties.
Mostly the journalists in tribal areas have been the main target throughout the year. They either been forced to give up their profession or leave their home town. Some barred from the coverage to inoffensive topics such as school functions and activities of administration officers.
Television channels, radio stations, Cinemas and CD shops have also been attacked specially in conflict areas.
Some of these actions included
Targeted killing of journalists by fire shots and suicide blasts, abductions and killing by militant groups.
Suspension of broadcasts of all international and national private television news and entertainment channels. Cable operators have been directed to only distribute entertainment channels approved by the authorities.
Blockage of some particular words in SMS service by Pakistan Telecommunication Authorities (PTA).
Letter by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to their employees to stop providing embarrassing information to the media.
Attacks, detention and arrests by law enforcement agencies of journalists covering protests against the imposition of the state of emergency.
Blasts at Compact Disk/Music Shops by militants groups in tribal areas.
Journalists killed in 2011
At least six journalists have been killed in Pakistan in the year 2011, in the line of duty.
Javed Naseer Rind, a freelance writer and former sub editor of daily “Tawar”, a pro-nationalist newspaper was found dead on Saturday morning, November 5, 2011 in Khuzdar, about 300 kilometers south of Quetta, the capital city of Balochistan province.
According to the press reports, Rind was shot in the head and chest, and his body showed multiple marks of torture. The police recovered a body and found a slip in which the body was identified as Javed Naseer Rind.
Shahzada Zulfiqar, senior journalist from Quetta told PPF that Rind was a freelance writer, he always writes for the truth and that was the actual reason of his abduction and murder. He further told that Rind had received the threats so many times before his kidnapping.
Rind was abducted on September 10 near his residence near Hub, the border area with Karachi when he was sitting at his shop. His relatives had filed an FIR about the kidnapping, but did not accuse anyone for the incident.
Shafiullah Khan, 28, a trainee reporter at the daily “The News”, Peshawar, succumbed to critical wounds he received during two deadly blasts that ripped through the military cantonment’s Khyber Supermarket in a commercial and residential area of Peshawar, the capital city of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, in Pakistan on 11 June.
Khan is the second journalist to have died as a result of the bomb blasts. Journalist Asfandyar Abid Naveed had died on the spot. Seven other journalists sustained minor injuries in the twin blasts.
With the demise of another journalist, the overall casualties have risen to 42. Police investigators believe the first low intensity bomb was planted as a trap to target mostly the police and journalists who were expected to come to the site of the explosion.
Khan had recently completed an MA in Journalism from Gomal University in Dera Ismail Khan and had joined the paper a week before the deadly attack. Khan joined other journalists in rushing to the scene of the first low-intensity blast in the toilet of a restaurant, just a few metres from the newspaper’s office, and fell victim to the subsequent suicide attack, when a man on a motorbike detonated his “suicide vest”, causing a high number of casualties.
He had received third degree burns and was transferred to the Khyber Teaching Hospital’s (KTH) burn unit. His elder brother Azizullah, who is an officer at the Higher Education Commission (HEC) in Islamabad, shifted him to the Pakistan Ordnance Factories’ (POF) Hospital in Wah Cantonment, where a specialized burn care centre exists. Doctors said he also received metal shrapnel in his right shoulder.
Asfandyar Abid Naveed, 35, a reporter for the daily “Akhbar-i-Khyber”, was killed and eight other journalists were injured when two blasts ripped through the military cantonment’s Khyber Supermarket, in a commercial and residential area of Peshawar, the capital city of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in Pakistan, late in the night on 11 June 2011.
Around 39 people were killed and more than 100 injured in the blasts. Police investigators believe the first low intensity bomb was planted as a trap to target mostly the police and journalists who were expected to come to the site of the explosion.
Eight journalists including Dunya TV bureau chief Saifullah Gul, Dunya TV reporter Imran Bukhari, a young intern at the daily “The News” named Shafiullah, “The News” sub-editor Barkatullah Marwat, Geo TV reporter Qazi Fazlullah, AVT Khyber cameraman Hashim Ali and two reporters for the daily “Akhbar-i-Khyber”, Sheheryar and Riaz, were among the injured. Shafiullah is in critical condition at the Burn Care Centre in Wah Cantt. The other injured journalists were listed in stable condition after receiving treatment.
According to press reports, a low-intensity blast caused by a small explosive planted in a toilet at the Lala Restaurant at 11:45 p.m. drew rescue workers and police to the scene. The offices of several electronic and print media are also located in the densely populated area and, as such, journalists who work and reside there also rushed to the spot. A few minutes later, a large explosion rocked the area when a man on a motorbike detonated his “suicide vest”, causing a high number of casualties. The second blast left the nearby plazas badly damaged and smashed the windowpanes of several other buildings. The dead and injured were taken to Lady Reading Hospital.
Abdul Haq, of the bomb disposal squad, said that two kilograms of low-quality explosive material were planted at the restaurant. He said the suicide bomber used about 12 kg of explosives mixed with ball bearings.
Meanwhile, the Taliban have denied responsibility for the blasts. Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan said they did not carry out the attack.
On 22 December 2009, Naveed survived a suicide bombing that ripped through the Peshawar Press Club. He sustained minor injuries in that incident. He was also previously struck by a speeding bus, resulting in fractures in one of his legs. Following that incident, he was hospitalised for several weeks and lost his job. He recently began his new position at “Akhbar-i-Khyber”. His parents are no longer living and he was unmarried. He left behind two sisters.
On May 31, 2011, the dead body of Syed Saleem Shahzad, 40, Pakistan Bureau Chief of “Asia Times Online” and South Asia Correspondent for Italian news agency Adnkronos International (AKI), was found in a canal, some 150 km from Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad, from where he was abducted two days earlier. His body is reported to bear marks of torture.
He was abducted at around six pm on May 29, while he was on his way to participate in a television talk show to discuss his investigative report published on May 27 for “Asia Times Online” which said that al-Qaeda had launched a deadly assault on a naval base (Pakistan Naval Station Mehran) in Karachi, the headquarters of the navy’s air wing, on 22 May because talks had failed over the release of several naval personnel arrested on suspicion of links to the militant group’s affiliates.
Ali Dayan Hasan of Human Rights Watch said that Shahzad had previously warned that his life was in danger from the ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence agency). In October 2010, Shahzad sent Human Rights Watch an email saying he was afraid he would be killed by the ISI, Hasan claimed.
President of Pakistan Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani issued routine statements expressing deep grief and sorrow and ordered an enquiry into the kidnapping and murder of the journalist. Previous enquiries into the murders of journalists have not been made public and it is not clear if the fate of this enquiry would be any different.
Shahzad leaves behind his wife and three children.
Nasrullah Khan Afridi, 38, a correspondent for state-run Pakistan Television Corporation (PTV), the English-language daily “Statesman” and the Urdu-language daily “Mashriq” in Khyber tribal agency, was killed when an explosive device ripped through his vehicle on the night of May 10, 2011 in Peshawar, the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan that borders Afghanistan.
The explosion occurred when Afridi came out of the offices of the Tribal Union of Journalists (TUJ), where he was a regular visitor, and entered his car. The device exploded, leaving behind a completely gutted vehicle and a crater in the road. The body of the deceased was burnt beyond recognition. A few other vehicles were damaged and windowpanes of nearby buildings were smashed. No one has claimed responsibility for the killing.
Mian Iftikhar Hussain, minister of information of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, said this was a case of a targeted attack and that militants have been killing journalists. He said that the authorities’ war against militancy would continue and it was their resolve to eliminate militants as they were killing innocent citizens.
Afridi had transferred from Khyber Agency to Hayatabad town in Peshawar along with his family a few years ago after receiving threats by a leader of the Lashkar-e-Islam (LeI), a Bara-based militant organisation. On May 26, 2007 unidentified persons lobbed two hand grenades at Afridi’s house, damaging the boundary wall and veranda. No one was injured in that incident.
TUJ President Safdar Hayat told PPF that militant organizations did not like Afridi because of his investigative reporting on militants in Pakistan’s Tribal region. Khyber Union of Journalists (KhUJ) President Arshad Aziz Malik told PPF that Afridi was constantly threatened by militant organizations, including LeI and Ansarul Islam (AI).
Afridi had been practicing journalism for the last ten years and was president of the Bara Press Club. He leaves behind three sons, three daughters and a widow. A son and a daughter are deaf and dumb and another boy lives with mental retardation.
Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani and Federal Information Minister Firdous Ashiq Awan have strongly condemned the death of Afridi. Prime Minister Gilani ordered the authorities to launch an inquiry into the incident.
Wali Khan Babar, 29, reporter of Geo News, Pakistan’s largest private television news channel, was gunned down by unidentified armed men in Karachi on 13 January 2011. Babar received five bullets – two in his forehead, one in the jaw and two in his neck. He was killed shortly after covering an operation against drug-traffickers in the Pehalwan Goth area in Karachi.
According to press reports, Babar was returning home from the Geo News office after performing his professional responsibilities, when two assailants on motorcycle intercepted his car at 9:21 p.m. and shot him five times through the driver’s window at close range. Eyewitnesses told journalists that Babar’s car was stopped by the attackers who, after confirming his identity, shot him dead.
The Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG), Sultan Khawaja, ruled out attempted robbery as the motive behind the firing, saying “it appeared to be a premeditated murder”.
Although they were not able to pinpoint the exact reason for his death, a number of his senior colleagues at Geo News believe that Babar was killed as a result of his journalistic work. Azhar Abbas, Managing Director of the Geo Television Network, said that they don’t know who is behind this, but they definitely take it as a message for the entire media community. He added that this reflects a dangerous trend of intolerance aimed at targeting the media personnel who reveal the truth.
No one has claimed responsibility for the murder. The Police have lodged a criminal complaint filed by the deceased’s brother, Muhammad Khan Babar.
Babar leaves behind his widowed mother, three sisters and four brothers. The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) has condemned the killing of Babar and decided to observe a country-wide ‘black day’ on Friday 14 January 2011, by staging protest rallies and hoisting black flags in the offices of journalists’ unions and press clubs to express their resentment.
Journalists Injured in 2011
Ehsan Kohati, a senior reporter for the Waqt News TV channel, was shot and injured while covering a Muharram rally, on November 27, 2011, in Karachi, the capital city of the Sindh province of Pakistan. Irfan Ahmed, another Waqt News reporter, told PPF that Kohati was hit by two bullets, one in the chest and another in the abdomen. Kohati was rushed to a nearby hospital where he received immediate treatment and is in stable condition.
Eight people, including Kohati, were injured and two were killed in the attack on a rally of Shiite Muslim mourners on the first day of the Islamic calendar month of Muharram.
Khalil Khan Afridi, a senior journalist and former president of the Tribal Union of Journalists (TUJ), was attacked with a hand grenade on September 21, 2011 as he was returning home from a nearby Hujra (guest house) in Landikotal, the capital of restive Khyber Agency, of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan.
Afridi told PPF he believed he was targeted because of his journalistic work. He was returning home alone at around 9:00 p.m. when he was targeted with a hand grenade and fell unconscious. He received injuries to his head and legs. Locals rushed him to the local hospital where doctors treated him. According to him, some of the grenade pellets embedded in his head and legs could not be removed as the machines at the hospital were out of order.
Press reports quoting local journalists said it was clear that Afridi was the assailants’ main target, as he was alone at the time of the attack.
Farha Effindi, bureau chief of ARY One World television station, was injured by supporters of a former provincial minister, Dr. Zulfiqar Ali Mirza, during a press conference held by Mirza in the city of Hyderabad, in Pakistan’s Sindh province, on August 30, 2011.
Effendi, who is also the general secretary of the Hyderabad Union of Journalists (HUJ), told the Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF) that he posed a question to Mirza referring to a point raised by the former minister in his opening remarks. Mirza became upset at the misinterpretation of his remarks and started yelling at Effendi without allowing him to complete his query. The former minister then called him an agent of an opposing political party. Later, Mirza’s guards assaulted Effendi, breaking four of his teeth.
Effendi said the situation at the Hyderabad Press Club where the conference was held became out of control when Mirza’s supporters aimed their weapons at journalists covering the event.
Hazrat Khan Mohamed, bureau chief of the private TV channel ATV Khyber News, was injured when the channel’s team was attacked by unknown armed men on August 22, 2011 in Peshawar, the capital of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province.
The team was returning after enquiring about the health of Provincial Education Minister Sardar Hussain Babak at Lady Reading Hospital Peshawar, when individuals travelling in a car and on a motorbike intercepted their vehicle near the Provincial Assembly Secretariat and Peshawar High Court and pelted it with stones. They also intimidated the media team by firing into the air.
Mohamed received injuries in one shoulder, his head and ribs and was rushed to a local hospital. The team included news chief Syed Waqas Shah, resident editor of the recently-launched Urdu daily “Akhbar-e-Khyber” Nisar Khan, and technical manager Gul-Sher Khan.
Yousaf Ali, General Secretary of the Khyber Union of Journalists (KhUJ), told PPF that he and KhUJ President Arshad Aziz Malik had sent a letter to the government, asking them to establish a commission for an impartial inquiry into the incident to determine responsibility and punish those involved in the attack. Ali said they had set September 15 as the deadline for the commission’s creation.
Journalist Muhammad Yaseen Ansari and photographer Khalid Sardar of the daily “Roznama Pakistan” were manhandled by a mob in the Bahawalpur district of Punjab province of Pakistan on Friday 15 July 2011.
Ansari, who is also a member of the Bahawalpur Union of Journalists (BUJ), told PPF that he and his photographer Sardar received calls on Friday 14 July 2011 informing them that some land grabbers were torturing women in order to grab their land, and the victims needed their help. They refused to go to the site, as it was very late in the night. The next day, they received call about the same issue again and when they reached the site, about 9 to 10 unidentified youths attacked them and beat them brutally. Both journalists incurred injuries to their faces, shoulders, and arms. The attackers snatched their cameras, cell phones, and wrist watches and shaved their moustaches and eyebrows. They also threatened them with dire consequences if they were to publish any scandalous story in newspaper, Ansari stated.
Ansari told PPF that he believes that the attack was due to his previous investigations and a news story published in his newspaper about corruption allegations surrounding the “Shadbad Cooperative Form”, a project announced by Chief Minister of Punjab, Shahbaz Sharif, with a budget of Rs. 480 million (approx. US$10.8 million), under the “Choolistan Development Authority”. Ali Raza Abbasi, Deputy Director of the “Choolistan Development Authority” and his assistant Iqbal Mushtaq are directly involved in the corruption, he alleged.
Ansari said that three days prior to the incident, Secretary of Live Stock and Dairy Development Hamid Yaqoob had visited the area to probe into the corruption matter and Ansari had met him and provided him with evidence on the case.
The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) and the Bahawalpur Union of Journalists (BUJ) called an emergency meeting on Saturday 16 July 2011 and expressed deep concerns over the attack on the journalists. They announced that they would hold a protest rally on Monday 18 July 2011.
The area police have registered the case against unidentified assailants following the report by the victims.
Waqar Kiani, 32, a Pakistan-based correspondent for the British newspaper “The Guardian”, was assaulted allegedly by police in Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan, on 18 June 2011. He was attacked five days after a news report was published in “The Guardian” and other newspapers about abduction and torture by suspected Pakistani intelligence agents in July 2008 in Islamabad.
Kiani told Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF) that he was on his way home from Islamabad on the night of 18 June when some policemen in a police van ordered him to stop and get out of the car so that they could search the vehicle. As the journalist stepped out of the car, four police officers started beating him with sticks and a rubber whip. “They said ‘You want to be a hero? We’ll make you a hero.’ We’re going to make an example of you’,” the journalist said. Kiani received injuries on his face and back and was transferred to the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) by rescue services, where he was given medical aid.
According to press reports, “The Guardian” had recently published a report in which it had said that “in 2008 Kiani was abducted, blindfolded, beaten and burned with cigarettes. The ordeal ended 15 hours later when his abductors dumped him 120 miles from Islamabad, warning they would rape his wife and post the video on YouTube if he told anyone.” The newspaper said Kiani had been working on a story about the illegal detention and torture of Islamist militants by Pakistani intelligence in collaboration with British intelligence. His research led him to an office of the Intelligence Bureau, the main civilian spy agency.
Kiani also told PPF that he believed that there are two reasons for the recent attack: the first is the report published in local and international newspapers, some days ago, about his abduction and beating by Pakistani intelligence agencies in July 2008, while the second is his recent interviews on local TV channels in which he criticized the state of journalism in the country and also talked about the 2008 attack.
Interior Minister Rehman Malik ordered a judicial inquiry by a magistrate and a police inquiry. He said that he has acted without delay and the investigation has begun without any issue.
Shahzad Anwar, Vice president of Multan Press Club and chief photographer of the daily “Pakistan Akhbaar” and six other journalists were injured in a clash with the students of state-run Bahauddin Zakariya University (BZU). The students were protesting outside the Press Club, in Multan, a city of Punjab province in Pakistan, on June 15, 2011.
According to press reports, around 200 students from the BZU veterinary department had been protesting for their summer vacations to be announced but the head of the department had yet to issue a notice in this regard. The students were also protesting the fact that the Pakistan Veterinary Medical Council (PVMC) had not yet accredited their courses even after a passage of five years. They blocked the traffic and did not pay heed to appeals to end the blockage.
Anwar told Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF) that he had only asked them to let the cars pass because one of the passengers was a heart patient, but they refused and started arguing. The students became furious and hurled bricks and stones at the press club, damaging the building and several cars.
Seven media persons including Ayaz Ali Sheikh, photographer with the daily “Sang-e-Meel”; Iqrar, a cameraman with Samaa TV; Zafar Iqbal, reporter with Naya Daur; Zafarul Islam, chief photographer with the daily “Din”; Suhail Qureshi, cameraman with Apna TV; Tariq Nazir Chaudhry, cameraman with Dunya TV; and Shahzad Anwar, photographer with the “Daily Pakistan Akhbaar”, sustained injuries. Ayaz Ali Sheikh and Iqrar were rushed to Nishtar hospital.
Jahangir Moon, 60, the coach of Multan Cricket Club and associate member of the press club, who was injured as a stone hit him in the head, was also moved to the Nishtar Hospital where he later died.
Anwar also told PPF that he called in police officials who arrived only two hours later. They arrested 36 students involved in the attack including Aamir Rafique, Muhammad Nasir, Tayyab Iqbal, Muhammad Suhail, Rashid Ali, Hasnan, Ali Hasnain, Ashraf, Faisal, Muhammad Waqas, Sabir and others. The Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Malik Yousuf and Cantonment police officer Rizwan Ahmed Yousuf assured the journalists of a thorough investigation of the incident.
Jamal Tarakai, 36, a Quetta-based photojournalist working for various media organizations, was arrested, beaten and abused by police in Quetta, the capital city of Balochistan province, on the morning of 14 June 2011. Tarakai had filmed the first video of security forces firing on five Chechens, including three women, in Quetta’s Kharotabad neighbourhood, on 17 May.
Tarakai told Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF) that he was headed to the Quetta Press Club when policemen on two motorbikes followed him for up to 2 kilometers and stopped him near Kharotabad Police Station. They took him to the police station, where he explained that he was a journalist and was carrying out his professional duties. A policeman threw his identity card on the floor. When Tarakai objected to this, the police officers started beating him. The journalist, who suffered bruises on his body, said that he made some calls to other journalists to inform them that he had been arrested. His colleagues arrived at the station and were able to have him released after an hour.
According to Tarakai, he had been receiving threatening calls on his cell phone since the Kharotabad incident. A few days prior to his arrest, he had received a threat from an unknown man who called the Quetta Press Club and told the club’s Vice President, Yaqoob Shahwani, that Tarakai had committed a big mistake by handing over the films and photographs of the incident involving the Chechens to a tribunal. The journalist said he was feeling unsafe because of the police’s behaviour.
Tarakai is working as a reporter for the “Nazim News” daily, and as a photojournalist and cartoonist for Independent News Pakistan (INP), “Awam” daily, “Dunya” daily, “Public” daily, and “Balochistan News” daily.
PPF notes that Tarakai has presented evidence that negates the claims of Frontier Constabulary (FC) and police officials that the foreigners they brutally gunned down were on a suicide mission. The journalist has given the tribunal footage of the incident that shows one of the three women raising her hands three times, presumably appealing the FC and police to stop firing. The video was telecast by a number of TV channels after Tarakai presented it to the tribunal. The FC and the police have not contradicted the events shown in the video. The photojournalist also told the tribunal that the foreigners were unarmed.
In addition, police surgeon Dr. Baqir Shah, who had performed a post-mortem of the bodies of the foreigners and provided facts to the tribunal, was dragged out of his car outside a hotel and thrashed by policemen. He was admitted to hospital as he suffered severe wounds to his head.
The inspector-general of Balochistan police has suspended two senior police officers and two constables in connection with the alleged harassment of Tarakai and Dr. Shah.
On 14 June, the Pakistan Senate expressed anger over the violation of a ruling by the Chairman of the Upper House regarding the provision of protection to journalists in Quetta who filmed footage of the Kharotabad incident. A Special Senate Committee headed by Minister for Law and Justice Maula Baksh Chandio was formed after journalists staged a walkout from the press gallery in protest against the attack on Tarakai.
Mohammad Fayyaz Qamar, 25, a Lahore-based cameraman for Dunya News TV, was shot and injured in the premises of Punjab Assembly, a high security zone in Lahore, while he was covering an event. A stray bullet hit him while he was sitting in an area designated for journalists.
According to press reports the incident took place when the Punjab Assembly’s 23rd session was in progress and just before Speaker Rana Muhammad Iqbal Khan gave a short break for prayer. Around 80 journalists from different media organisations were present inside the media camp when a 30-bore pistol bullet came from the direction of Wapda House, piercing through the tent, and hit the back of the cameraman after rebounding from a chair. The rescue team took Qamar to a local hospital where he was given first aid and he is said to be out of danger.
Journalists threatened in 2011
Hamid Mir, a senior anchor for the Geo News television network, received threatening SMS messages on 20 December 2011 after discussing topics on his talk show that were critical of the Pakistani security establishment.
According to press reports, Mir received messages on his mobile phone in which he was ridiculed and threatened. He sent an e-mail to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) in New York, in which he stated that he had received an SMS message on his Blackberry at 11:47 p.m. which said: “I have not seen a real bastard than you. I wish somebody comes and strip you naked. I hope some army man has not done real dirty with your dear ones.” Mir felt the message was in response to his show “Capital Talk”.
The journalist said he responded to the SMS and got another message from the same number declaring him to be a CIA, RAW and Mossad agent. Mir says that in the past he has received similar threatening messages, usually from the intelligence agencies.
Mir believes the recent threats were related to two of his recent talk shows on Geo TV, in which he raised questions about the political role of the Director General of the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, Ahmad Shuja Pasha. That same evening he also discussed a press conference held by Attaullah Mengal, in which the Baloch leader criticized atrocities perpetrated by the Pakistan Army against Balochis, he said.
Mir stated publicly that if anything should happen to him or his loved ones, the security forces would be responsible.
Five journalists were threatened by the banned Baloch Musallah Defa Army (BMDA) militant organisation in the Khuzdar district of Pakistan’s southern Balochistan province on November 25, 2011.
According to press reports, in a phone call to the Naushki Press Club BMDA spokesman Mir Jang Baloch said the organisation will target journalists who are working as informers for the Baloch Republican Army and Baloch Liberation Army separatist groups. Jang also threatened Khuzdar Press Club president Nabeel Gurnani for allowing his club to be used for “negative activities.”
The journalists who were threatened included Nabeel Gurnani, a correspondent for the Express News TV channel and president of the Khuzdar Press Club; Abdul Haq Baloch, a correspondent with the ARY News TV channel; Abdullah Khidrani, a correspondent for the KTN News TV channel and the daily “Kawaish”; Munir Noor, a correspondent with the daily “Balochistan News”; and Abdullah Shahwani, a correspondent for the Aaj TV channel.
Mohammad Malick, editor of the English language daily “The News”, received telephone death threats and was followed by men in a car on November 22 as he was travelling to his office in the capital, Islamabad. He believes the people threatening and following him were from intelligence agencies.
Malick said he was also followed by unknown individuals in a white Toyota Corolla on November 23.
Malick told PPF that he received a phone call on the evening of November 21, in which he was warned not to delve too deeply in his investigative reporting on the so-called “Memogate issue”, in which former Pakistan ambassador to the U.S. Hussain Haqqani is alleged to have sought U.S. help in reining in Pakistan’s military in a memo to Admiral Mike Mullen. Haqqani has since resigned over the incident.
Malick said he has written columns on the “Memogate issue” in his newspaper that was critical of government policies. He believes that the threats he received were a reaction to the columns.
A team of the news station Geo TV was harassed by the Provincial Minister for Works and Services, Zulfikar Mirza, along with his guards and companions, while the team was on assignment to cover Interior Minister Rehman Malik’s engagements in Karachi, the capital city of Pakistan’s Sindh province on July 6, 2011. The Geo TV team included reporter Shoaib Burney and cameraman Zubairuddin.
Burney told PPF that he and his companion were covering the minister’s convoy, comprising over a dozen vehicles and an army of both uniformed and plainclothes guards, when guards snatched their camera, microphone, bulletproof jackets and helmets at gunpoint. The minister used abusive and vulgar language against the reporters, who included senior anchors, and snatched Burney’s and Zubairuddin’s press identity cards from around their necks.
Burney also told PPF that Mirza threatened to kill him and ordered the police to bundle them into a police van. The police later let both journalists go.
According to press reports, the police did not submit a report against Mirza or his guards or companions for harassing the media team.
Abdul Salam Soomro of the Sindhi-language television station Awaz has received anonymous death threats after his footage of an apparently unarmed teenage boy being killed by paramilitary troops in Karachi was shown nationally on June 8, 2011. Public protests and criticism from political leaders forced President Asif Ali Zardari on Thursday to order an investigation into the killing.
CD/Music shops/FM Radio stations destroyed in 2011
Number of CD shops and a FM Radio office were destroyed in bomb attacks in 2011.
Copies of “Mashriq”, a local daily, were snatched and set on fire by a group of armed men on December 3, 2011. The incident occurred in Bannu district, Khyber-Pakhtunkhuwa province of Pakistan.
According to news reports, six armed men intercepted news agent Muhammad Khalil and driver Akhtar Nawaz at 5:45 am when they were on their way to deliver copies of the newspaper.
Ashraf Nisar, a “Mashriq” chief reporter, told PPF that the newspaper’s correspondent in Bannu, Niaz Ali Shah, received a threatening phone call on the night of December 2, 2011, in which he was warned not to file a news item regarding corruption by the Minister for Labor and Manpower Sher Azam Wazir.
Six shops were completely destroyed and two more were damaged in a bomb explosion that targeted a compact disc (CD) market in the Swabi district of Khyber-Pakhtunkhuwa province in Pakistan. The explosion took place late at night on November 10, 2011.
Unknown suspects planted explosives outside two CD shops in Javed Market, which houses many video and music CD shops. The explosion occurred at around 3:00 a.m. No casualties have been reported in the blast because no one was present in the market at night.
The blast completely destroyed six CD shops; two others were partially damaged. The police and the bomb disposal squad reached the scene soon after the blasts to gather evidence.
In another explosion Five people were killed and over two dozen injured in a bomb explosion on Monday September 19, 2011 that targeted a music and video compact disks market in Peshawar, the capital city of Khyber-Pakhtunkhuwa province of Pakistan.
Officials of the bomb disposal unit (BDU) said around 10 kilograms of explosive were planted in a motorbike parked outside Grace Market, which houses many video and music CD shops. The explosion was triggered by a remote-controlled device at around 9 p.m.
The blast completely destroyed 20 shops and partially destroyed 10. It also damaged a number of vehicles passing through the area and triggered a fire. Grace Market is located in the part of town that has a concentration of over 300 music and video shops. Another building in this area was bombed on October 9, 2007.
Suspected militants blew up parts of the privately-owned radio station FM 93 Dilbar Radio at about 1:30 a.m. on April 20, 2011 after planting explosives around the building housing the station. Radio Dilbar is located in the town of Charsadda, 120 kilometres southeast of Peshawar in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, and broadcasts a mix of news and music.
According to press reports, unknown persons planted powerful explosive material around the station; two rooms and the boundary wall of the radio station were completely destroyed and some equipment was also damaged in the blast. Two technical staff members and two security guards were present at the time of the blast but no injuries or loss of life were reported.
Shahryar Shah, station manager of Radio Dilbar, told Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF) that the radio station had temporarily stopped transmission for 18 hours, but had resumed transmission later that evening. Shah said they had not received any threats, but suggested that the attackers were the same militants who had earlier targeted District Coordination Offices (DCO) and schools in Charsadda.
Police officer Shafiullah Khan said no one had claimed responsibility for the attack. Members of the Gandhara Union of Journalists condemned the blast at the radio station, calling it an attack on the media. They also criticized local police for failing to prevent it and for not providing protection to media institutions.
Cable/TV channels transmissions banned in 2011/bans on reporting
The All Pakistan Cable Operators Association (APCOA) banned the airing of British Broadcasting Company (BBC) television broadcasts following the airing of a two-part BBC documentary called “Secret Pakistan”, which explored allegations that Pakistan was failing to live up to its alliances in the war on terror.
Khalid Arain, the chairman of APCOA, announced a phased-in shutdown of foreign news channels that he said are fuelling “anti-Pakistan” sentiments worldwide. He said the BBC would be blocked in the first phase and that Fox News, Sky News and CNN would be shut down in the next phase. He announced this in a press conference at the Press Club in Lahore, the capital city of Punjab province, on 29 November 2011.
Arain announced that APCOA would shut down all international broadcasts that damage Pakistan’s image through biased news coverage. “We want to send them a strong message to stop this. If they don’t stop this, then it is our right to stop them,” Arain said.
Arain demanded the information ministry and Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) revoke the landing rights of all channels airing anti-Pakistan propaganda.
The APCOA decision to block BBC World News follows an uproar in Pakistan over a NATO air strike on 26 November that killed 26 Pakistani troops in Mohmand Agency, near the Afghan border.
The Establishment Division of the Government of Pakistan issued an official letter to government servants on 2 July 2011, ordering them not to leak or share any “embarrassing” information with the media.
According to press reports, the Establishment Division’s letter, signed by Deputy Secretary Muhammad Ijaz Ghani, was issued to all secretaries and additional secretaries, those in charge of ministries or divisions in Islamabad and Rawalpindi, and all the chief secretaries of the four provinces.
The letter, which was itself leaked to the media on 13 July, stated that: “The undersigned (deputy secretary) is directed to state that instances have come to the notice of the government where official information/documents are communicated to the press/media and leakage of such information places the government in an embarrassing position.
“Communication to the press/media or to a government servant unauthorized to receive it or to a non-official person of any statement of fact or opinion or other information by a government servant which is likely to embarrass the government is prohibited under Rules 18 and 23 of the Government Servants (Conduct) Rules, 1964, and any infringement of these rules is cognisable under the Government Servants (Efficiency and Discipline) Rules, 1973.
“It is, therefore, imperative to bring these provisions of rules to the notice of all government servants for strict compliance. In the case of violation of these rules/instructions, the defaulting government servants may be prosecuted under Government Servants (Efficiency and Discipline) Rules, 1973.”
It is worth mentioning that the government’s Interior Ministry also previously banned its officers from sharing any information with the media.
On 6 May 2011, the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) issued notices to nine foreign channels for illegal uplinking of live news coverage, asking them to explain their position on airing news from Abbottabad without lawful authority. Abbottabad, a city in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, has been a focal point for global and local broadcasters since a U.S. raid on a compound in the city killed Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden on 2 May.
According to press reports, the notices were served on Fox News, NBC News, Cable News Network (CNN), British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), CNS News, IBN, Al-Jazeera TV, Voice of America (VOA) and Sky TV for violating the PEMRA Act. All the channels were told to stop unauthorised uplinking immediately.
Wakeel Khan, General Manager (Technical) under whose signature the notices were issued, told Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF) that foreign channels were violating Section 31 of the PEMRA Act 2007. As per that section, any foreign channel must seek prior permission for a temporary uplink in order to directly air an event or incident from Pakistan. The authority may issue permission in writing to any party to carry out temporary uplinking from a ground transmission facility to a satellite to transmit any event live from Pakistan for a specific period of time.
Khan further said that CNN, NBC News, CNS News and VOA had applied for temporary uplinking facility. PEMRA is considering their request and will respond soon.
Haroon Rasheed, Editor of BBC Pakistan, told PPF that they had still not received the PEMRA notice. He said they had not received any direction from BBC London to suspend the transmission so they were continuing transmission as per usual.
On April 8, 2011, the Pakistan Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) ordered shut down the transmissions of AAG TV, a private music TV channel belonging to Independent Media Corporation, owner of the Jang Group of Newspapers.
In a public notice issued on April 11, PEMRA said that after Geo Super sports channel shut down its transmissions, the media group started transmitting Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket matches from India on AAG TV. This was not permissible under the law, as AAG TV is allowed to telecast entertainment and music programmes only, and no sport events. Since it was a violation of terms and conditions of the licence, PEMRA shut down the transmission of AAG TV.
However, according to the Jang Media Group, the shutdown of AAG TV was part of the continuing government campaign against the Jang Group. The media group had announced recently that it would screen IPL cricket matches on AAG TV because Geo Super had been closed. The media group said PEMRA was following instructions by the government to financially damage the Jang Group so that its freedom of speech could be curtailed and the group could be blackmailed into submission.
On April 4, Geo Super said it had been ordered by PEMRA to stop transmission. Acting PEMRA Chairman Dr Abdul Jabbar refuted this assertion as “baseless”. He said Geo Super is a Dubai-based channel with permission to uplink from Dubai. He said no closure orders were issued by PEMRA and Geo Super can continue its routine transmission under the landing rights permission which is still valid, and there is no restriction on Geo Super in this regard.
Rahmatullah Darpakhel, a senior journalist and correspondent of Urdu-language daily “Ausaf” was abducted by a group of armed men from Miramshah, the district headquarter of North Waziristan, a mountainous region of Northwest Pakistan on late Thursday, Aug 11, 2011.
According to press reports, Darpakhel left the Miramshah Press Club and went to nearby vegetable market before going home on the Miramshah-Dattakhel Road when two non custom-paid state cars with colored glasses came all of a sudden and armed men riding them abducted the journalist on gunpoint. They fired in the air to avoid any kind of resistance.
Later, he was released on October 12, 2011, after two months of abduction.
Muhammad Rafique Balouch, a reporter for the Urdu-language daily “Ummat” and the vice president of the Karachi Union of Journalists (KUJ), was abducted by four unidentified people in plain clothes on March 21, 2011 in Karachi, the southern port city and capital of Sindh province.
Balouch told Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF) that on March 21, at 8:30 a.m. he was heading to the Sindh High Court (SHC) to attend a hearing of the 7th Wage Board Award. (The Wage Board is a committee formed by the government of Pakistan for the purpose of fixing the rates of wages for journalists in the country.) Four unidentified men in a car intercepted him. Three of them came out of the car and asked him to identify himself. They inquired where he was going and when he said he was on his way to the SHC, they forcibly put him in their car, blindfolded him and drove away.
After a 20-minute drive they took him to an unknown building and asked questions on the Wage Board award movement and about KUJ President Siraj Ahmed and General Secretary Hassan Abbas. The abductors said they had information that Balouch planned to throw a shoe at the face of the SHC Chief Justice during the hearing, and that they were deputed to remove Balouch from the scene.
After four hours, the abductors again put him in the car. They freed him in the city centre after warning him not to tell anyone about this incident. Balouch was kept blindfolded during the entire ordeal.
Attempt to abduction
Afnan Khan, chief reporter for the “Daily Times” newspaper, has left the country after assailants, thought to be members of the Jamaatud Dawa, attempted to abduct him on December 3, 2011 in Lahore, the capital city of Punjab province of Pakistan.
According to press reports, Khan was returning home from the office at around 2:00 a.m. when he noticed that a Land Cruiser jeep was following him. The vehicle overtook his car and stopped in front of it, signaling for Khan to stop. Two men holding pistols immediately jumped out of the vehicle and aimed their guns at the journalist. He was confused and honked his horn. Meanwhile, a car with bright lights approached on the deserted road and the assailants, sensing danger, rushed to their vehicle and drove away.
Khan called the police and told them what had happened. He asked them to send help but the help never came.
Farooq Azam, chief news editor of the “Daily Times”, told PPF that Khan had been working on human rights cases and the persecution of religious minority groups. Khan had also criticised the militant Muslim organization Jamaatud Dawa for a wall-chalking and anti-India ad campaign. The banned group has called for a jihad against India, despite claiming to have a charitable organisation. Azam said that in his reports, Khan had also questioned the role of security agencies in these issues.
Azam said Khan had received repeated death threats from unknown callers, which he had informed authorities about on several occasions, but that no one had bothered to provide him with protection. Khan was very much worried about his family members, Azam said.
Attack on journalist’s house, survived
The home of Jawed Noor, a senior correspondent for the daily “Mashriq” and president of the Wanna Press Club, was extensively damaged by the detonation of an explosive device placed by unidentified individuals on the night of 20 October 2011. The incident took place in Wanna, the headquarters of the South Waziristan Agency of the Federally Administrated Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan.
Noor told PPF that a bag of explosives was placed outside his house. He said was in Peshawar at the time of attack but that his family members, all of whom are safe, were awakened by the blast. According to Noor, the walls and window panes of the house were damaged.
Noor said he had received death threats via telephone calls a few days earlier, but he failed to take notice of them. He said there are many militant groups in the FATA who do not want journalists to publish the truth or any news against them.
Television team attacked during coverage
A reporting team for SAMAA TV, a privately-owned news station, was attacked by a group of thugs who warned them of dire consequences if they continued to cover stories in the area. They also set the station’s van ablaze. The incident took place in Karachi, the capital city of Pakistan’s Sindh province.
The television news crew included reporter Ghayasuddin, cameraman Faisal Aghai and driver Zahid Shah.
Ghayasuddin told the Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF) that the news team was covering a police operation against car thieves when a group of armed men attacked their van. When the reporter asked why they attacked the van, they used abusive language and demanded that the news crew leave the area.
According to Ghayasuddin, as they were packing up their equipment, the thugs attacked their van again, pelting stones at it and firing gunshots into the air. The police suddenly vanished from the scene. The members of the news crew, who tried to save their vehicle and equipment, managed to take shelter in a vacant house. The armed men then set the television station’s van ablaze and besieged the house. Meanwhile, Ghayasuddin managed to contact the police and the SAMAA TV office. After about an hour and a half, police officers arrived at the scene and helped them exit the house.
Shots fired at TV news crew
On 4 February 2011, a reporting team from Dawn News, a private TV news channel, was fired upon by unidentified individuals. The incident occurred in Tehsil Jati, Thatta district, Sindh, Pakistan’s second largest province. The team, which included senior anchor Syed Talat Hussain and cameraman Haider Ali, was attacked as it was reporting on the illegal seizure of land.
Ali told Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF) that they were working on a programme depicting the impact of flooding on Sindh province. The cameraman said some villagers informed the news crew that Ghulam Qadir Malkani, a former advisor to the Sindh chief minister, had forcibly evicted them from their 200-acre land, which included their crop growing areas and homes. The team decided to investigate the story. One of the villagers led them to the area in question but stopped at some distance away, saying that he could not go any further because armed guards would detain and beat him. According to Ali, he and Hussain walked ahead. Hussain identified himself in a loud voice and called out but no one replied.
Suddenly, snipers opened fire on the news crew. A number of armed men also followed the team as it tried to flee. Hussain and Ali managed to escape to a safe area. The cameraman did not shut off his camera and he was able to record the incident.
According to press reports, sub-machine guns and other sophisticated weapons were used in the attack and the pellets from the rounds landed near the news team. Dawn News and journalists’ organizations condemned the attack and called for an immediate investigation.
A reporting team of “SAMAA TV”, a private news channel, was attacked by unknown armed individuals who detained the crew for over two hours on 1 January 2011 in the industrial town of Faisalabad in Pakistan’s largest Punjab province.
The reporting team included reporter Mannan Ashraf, cameraman Salman Ashraf, trainees Muhammad Sajid and Muhammad Saeed, satellite engineer Irfan Serwer and driver Mohammed Majeed.
Ashraf told Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF) that they were working on an interview for a programme called “Faisla Aap Ka” about the lifestyle of transgendered individuals. While the SAMAA crew was conducting the interview, two men attacked their van. When Serwer and Majeed, who were in the van, asked why the van had been attacked, they used abusive language and demanded that the reporting team leave the area. After a heated exchange, the two men left to call for backup.
Ashraf said they proceeded with the interview and as they were packing up the equipment, around 10 to 15 people with weapons, wooden sticks and bricks attacked them. The members of the crew tried to save their vehicle and equipment and during their struggle they received bruises on their body.
The whole crew managed to hide in a vacant residence. The attackers besieged the house and shouted slogans against the media. Ashraf then informed the police and the SAMAA TV office about the incident. When the police arrived, they arrested only one of the attackers while the others escaped.
Assailants open fire on TV host’s car
Syed Sheryar Asim, host of the “Target” programme broadcast on Aaj TV, was attacked in Karachi, the capital city of Sindh province, when two armed men on a motorbike opened fire on his car at 8:30 a.m. on 27 July 2011.
Asim informed PPF that he was in his car, together with his brother, when the two armed assailants tried to intercept them. When the journalist refused to stop the car, they opened fire. The bullets did not reach them, however, and Asim and his brother were not injured in the attack. When they returned home half an hour later, the journalist received a call from a man who threatened him, saying, “Next time the bullets will not be aimed at your car but at your chest.”
The attack is believed to be in retaliation for Asim’s recent reporting on criminal gang activities. The journalist has been receiving threats because of his programme.
The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) and the Karachi Union of Journalists (KUJ) have expressed concern over the attack and demanded that the government take serious notice of the attempt on Asim’s life and bring the assailants to justice.
Local police have registered the case filed by Asim.
Camera operator detained and assaulted by police in Lahore
Waheed Butt, 40, a cameraman for Geo News, a leading privately-owned news channel, was detained and assaulted by police as he was filming the arrest of a 12-year-old boy on 17 June 2011 in Lahore, the capital city of the Pakistani province of Punjab.
Butt, who is also president of the Lahore Cameramen’s Association (LCA), told the Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF) that he was on his way to his office when he saw four policemen arresting and beating the boy. When Butt asked why they were dragging the boy, the police officers told him to “stay out of (the) matter.” Butt then followed the police vehicle on his motorbike and captured the scene using his mobile phone camera. When the police officers noticed him doing this, they stopped their vehicle. Station House Officer (SHO) Ahsan Elahi got out of the vehicle, snatched Butt’s mobile phone and ordered his men to arrest the cameraman. This took place despite the fact that Butt told them he is cameraman for a famous media organization.
Butt said he handed his motorbike over to some people he knew who had arrived at the scene of the incident. The police personnel forcibly detained Butt and took him in their vehicle to the Johar town police station. At the police station he again showed his identification, but the officers started beating him. In the meantime, Butt made a call via another cell phone to his office to inform them about the arrest.
The cameraman said that when a media team reached the police station SHO Elahi fled the scene, while other police officers mistreated the journalists. Butt was released after an hour in detention, during which time police officers tore his shirt and slapped him in the face. He had bruises on his chest from being dragged by the officers. After determining that the video clip that Butt had taken of the 12-year-old boy’s arrest had not been shot successfully, the police returned his mobile phone to him.
Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) Malik Ahmad Raza Tahir issued an order to suspend SHO Elahi and the other police officers involved in the incident.
Pakistan Press Foundation