Pakistan Press Freedom Report May-August 2005
During the period eight Dailies, Weeklies, Fortnightly across Pakistan were raided, sealed and clamped down by state machinery according to data compiled through national newspapers. The four months period witnessed a hard billow to freedom of press on the pretext that the publications were to cause nation-wide anarchy by publishing ‘hate materials’. Two journalists were killed and three others were mishandled and mauled by law enforcing officials and political hooligans in this period. Government stopped advertisements’ release to Daily Nawa-i-Waqt/The Nation, Daily Dawn, Daily Sahafat, Daily Ausaf, Daily Business Reporter and Daily Frontier Post.
It was learnt that the ban was imposed on Naw-e-Waqt by Punjab government for it published a [paid] supplement of an opposition party.
The raids came after President Pervez Musharraf’s remarks in Islamabad at a youth convention on July 18 where he spoke strongly against religious extremism and on the need to curb such elements and prevent them from preaching their sectarian and hate-filled views, hence giving way to authorities to vent out animosity against national media.
The dawn of World Press Freedom Day on May 3 incurred journalists baton blows while they were commemorating the day.
On May 14 journalist was shot and wounded in a drive-by shooting by three masked gunmen in a South Waziristan. Mujeebur Rehman, who works for Reuters news agency, was wounded in the hand during the attack from a passing taxicab near the town of Wana.
On May 29 police registered FIRs against a reporter of daily Awam and a reporter of an English eveninger, Daily News, under sections 500 and 505(1)(b) of PPC (Pakistan Penal Code) in Mithadar police station, Karachi. Note mentioning here are the contents of the sections; Section 500 of the PPC reads: “Whoever defames another shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term, which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both. Section 505(1)(b) reads: “Whoever makes, publishes or circulates any statement, rumor or report with intent to cause, or which is likely to cause, fear or alarm to the public or to any section of the public whereby any person may be induced to commit an offence against state or against the public tranquility, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to seven years and with fine.”
There is also an explanatory note in the end of section reads: “It does not amount to an offence, within the meaning of this section, when the person making, publishing or circulating any such statement, rumor or report has reasonable grounds for believing that such statement, rumor or report is true and makes, publishes or circulates it in good faith and without any such intent as aforesaid.
An editor of a fortnightly newspaper, Faisal Javaid was booked by Race Course police, Lahore in month of June under section 506 of the Telegraph Act.
The detention was allegedly on the behest of some politician of the district.
On July 5 night gunmen ambushed a car carrying a local journalist, Ubaidullah Azhar killing him and injured another person in the vehicle in a tribal town of Dergi, North West Frontier Province.
On July 16 night police picked up an editor, an assistant editor of a weekly and six newspapers hawkers for spreading ‘hate literature’ in Karachi.
Mithadar police raided the office of weekly Zar-i-Islam, picked up its editor Nasir Ali Jahangir and assistant editor Mohammad Saleem. Police also sealed all the copies of the weekly from there and sealed the office.
While Preedy police raided different newspaper stalls and picked up hawkers Mohammad Imran, Abdul Latif, Abdul Rehman, Mazhar Abbas, Nadeem, and Mohammad Irfan for selling hate the copies of another Urdu weekly Zarb-i-Momin.
Police in Karachi on July 19 raided the office of Urdu weekly “Friday Special”, a subsidiary of daily “Jasarat” and arrested its assistant editor Abdul Latif Abu Shamil. Daily Jasarat is a publication of the “Jamaat-i-Islami”, an opposition political party.
Police also raided the office of weekly “Wujood” arrested its editor Mohammad Tahir . Police claimed both journalists were arrested for publishing hate materials to create religious disharmony.
Police also raided the office weekly “Ghazi” and daily “Ummat” but no arrests were made.
On 22nd July, Dawn editorial denounced the raids on newspapers offices as illegitimate. On 24th July Rashid Channa, reporter for the daily Star, a Karachi evening daily newspaper published by the Dawn Group of Newspapers, was picked up and detained for about twelve hours before being released at 1:00 AM. The next day he was charged for attempted murder of a person, Mr. Channa claims he had never heard of before.
The Dawn statement said that the detention of Mr. Channa appears to be linked to the stories filed by him about Sindh government, the conduct of its chief minister and appears to be the latest salvo fired by the Sindh government against the Dawn Group of Newspapers.
On July 23, unknown persons hurled three home-made bombs into the home of Khursheed Ahmed, Bureau Chief of daily Khabrain in the city of Gilgit, capital city of the Northern Areas of Pakistan. Mr. Ahmed is also the President of Gilgit Press Club. Two of the three bombs went off while third one could not explode the blasts caused damage to the house but caused no loss to seven inmates in his house. The attackers fled the scene under the cover of darkness.
Press reports quoting Mr. Ahmed said the attack could be the result of his support for the administration’s decision to close down weekly publications, K-2. Azan, Naqara, Wadi, and others, for publishing provocative statements of religious factions.
This was is the second time that his house was targeted. Unidentified persons had hurled a similar home made bomb on March 3, 2005 causing loss to his property.
In Faisalabad, on July 27 Police seized objectionable material during raids on a number of printing presses and offices of publishers and arrested their owners on the charges of creating religious hatred among the people.
The motive behind the crackdown was to trace the printing presses and their owners who published books Khutbat-i-Azam, Islam aur Munafqat, Phir Wohi Qaid-o-Bund, Khilafat-i-Rashida and Toot Gai Zanjeer which were taken into custody during a raid on an office of the Sipah-i-Sahaba Pakistan in the Rail Bazaar area.
On July 28, the police sealed the office of Daily Mid Special in Sunny Plaza off II Chundrigar Road in Mithadar police limits and stopped printing work at Qayyum printing press for one month.
The police said the action had been taken on the instructions of the home department after Maulana Azizur Rahman of the Jamiat Ulma-e-Islam complained that the Daily Mid Special printed objectionable material. A case under section 292 of PPC has been registered against the publisher and the editor of the journal.
A journalist was shot dead by three assailants along the GT Road in front of the Saddar police station in Lalamusa on August 1. He was a former president of the Lalamusa press club.
According to reports, he had carried several stories against the family of his ex-wife, mostly expatriates, revealing how the family got foreign nationalities through forged documents. He had also been in litigation with the embassies concerned over the same issue.
On August 5, Jhang police confiscated copies of a daily and a monthly paper and sealed two printing presses in Rabwa. The papers belong to Ahmadis.
The police also arrested two people including the editor of the daily during an operation. According to police spokesman Munawar Shahid, Jhang SSP Hamid Mukhtar Gondal ordered a DSP to seize the papers and the presses. Police sealed the two presses, seized daily newspaper Al-Fazal and a monthly magazine office of which located in same building.
On August 15, the district coordination officer of the city district government in separate orders has said the declarations issued in respect of the weeklies ‘Wajood’, ‘Zerb-i-Islam’ and ‘Friday Special’ have been withdrawn as cancelled with immediate effect.
He said this was done in pursuance of Section-19 of the Press and Publication Ordinance 2002, in the interest of maintenance of public order/tranquillity.
On August 18, a senior journalist and staff reporter of an Urdu daily, Tajammul Hussain was beaten up by the workers of a political group in presence of police and rangers, when he reached at one of polling stations established here at Women’s College, Burns Road, Karachi.
Tajammul Hussain was on election duty and on a report of certain irregularities, he visited the said polling station, where reportedly he went inside a female booth and checked ballot boxes.
At that time members of a political group allegedly manhandled him and tore his shirt, snatched bag, diary, writing pad and notes of his visits to various polling stations.
According to one national daily, government issued strict orders to law enforcement agencies to cease newspapers and presses involving in spreading ‘hate materials’.
It is an open secret that how sincere government might be to bring harmony in the society by curbing extremism of any form loses would have to be sustained by media alone. Despots find time opportune to revenge old enmities with iconoclasts who legally rejected not to publicize views of power-holders.
Recent attacks on media militated against the government claim of freedom of expressions. Otherwise it was clearly directed to authority not to harass media persons in the garb of operation clean-up extremism.
ENDS-Tariq Ahmed Saeedi