PPF condemns acts of violence, threats against media following Imran Khan’s ouster
Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF) condemns the recent acts of violence against the media community. In the weeks following the removal of the government led by Imran Khan there have been multiple incidents of physical violence as well as the online harassment of media personalities.
Political sentiments have been running high since the proceedings of a vote of no-confidence against Khan were initiated and were further ignited after his removal from office. There is not, however, no excuse to target the media. To physically attack members of the media at party rallies or to launch verbal attacks on them online, are both condemnable actions.
We urge Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), recently ousted as the ruling party of Pakistan, to ensure that in their tussle with other political parties, the media is not made the target. The party leadership must not only urge its workers to exercise restraint but also publicly condemn acts of violence being carried out against the media at the behest of the party or by the party supporters
It is worrying to see the multiple attacks on the media that have occurred in the wake of political developments. The media is responsible for covering, analyzing and reporting on all developments and to attack them for doing so is alarming.
On April 13, seven reporters and camera persons received minor injuries at a PTI rally in Peshawar. According to Dawn, Capital City Police Officer Ijaz Khan has taken notice of the incident and said that the police are working on identification of the attackers.
The report quoted Peshawar Press Club General Secretary Shahzada Fajad who explained that there was only one container for journalists to cover the rally.
An hour before Khan spoke, 60 to 70 men climbed on the container and when the media tried to turn them away, they beat them up, he said, adding that some of the individuals on the ground, also pelted journalists with stones which resulted in the injuries of seven journalists.
Additionally, one cameraperson’s camera was damaged and another fainted and lost his laptop.
The Khyber Union of Journalists condemned the attack.
Separately, a man was arrested in Peshawar on April 16 for a viral video in which he asked PTI workers to kill journalists and anchor persons who were critical of Khan, Dawn reported.
He was arrested on the basis of a complaint filed by Khyber Union of Journalists President Nasir Hussain. The suspect has since appeared in another video in which he apologized for his “outburst” against the media.
In a subsequent rally held in Karachi on April 16, once again journalists were targeted. Samaa TV reporter Zamzam Saeed and his cameraperson Shahid Baloch were abused and bottles were thrown at them. Additionally, the media teams for 24 News and Geo were also targeted.
Speaking to PPF, Shahid said that PTI workers abused and misbehaved with him and Saeed. He said that they chanted slogans against politician Aleem Khan, who is the owner of Samaa TV.
“The violent supporters beat us with sticks and stones. We managed to escape. The mob attacked us because of the channel’s policies,” he said.
Condemning the incident, 24 News Director News Mian Tahir said that PTI workers had harassed his channel’s media team and chanted slogans against the network.
A team for Geo News was also targeted with chants of “traitor” being yelled at them. Geo News Bureau Chief Faheem Siddiqui strongly condemned the targeted attacks. He said that media teams were being harassed from the morning of the rally.
Following the ouster of Imran Khan, anchorpersons and journalists have been made the target of attacks by senior PTI leadership.
Analyst and lawyer Reema Omer had commented on the violent attack against the deputy speaker of Punjab Assembly during a session to elect a new provincial chief minister.
In a tweet, Omer said: “PTI leaders incited and threatened violence against dissidents for weeks and now are openly condoning and justifying assault on Punjab’s Deputy Speaker. In doing so, they are accepting PTI is a lynch mob – not a political party bound by the Constitution or the rule of law.”
In response, former human rights minister Shireen Mazari said: “Your petty hatred for PTI knows no bounds! But luckily u(sic) don’t speak for majority of Pakistanis, just for your foreign NGO! We have had enough of pontification and arrogance! Now go cry to your NGO.”
Omer is a South Asia legal advisor for the International Commission of Jurists.
In another instance, Mazari lashed out against columnist Fahd Hussain who had criticized politicians who were suggesting Pakistan was headed toward civil war after the chaos that erupted at the Punjab Assembly.
In a tweet, Mazari responded: “Don’t forget irresponsible journalists like yourself being party to the US-initiated conspiracy of regime change which you & your paper pushed for last few months! Less pontication please!”
Hussain is a columnist for Dawn newspaper and an anchor person for their television channel.
In her attacks on both Hussain and Omer, Mazari used the hashtag “imported hukumat na manzoor” i.e. imported government not acceptable, in reference to the PTI narrative that Khan was removed on the basis of a foreign conspiracy.
Such reactions to journalists, who are analyzing political developments, are unbecoming of a senior politician. Such responses for any leader, particularly from the former human rights minister, is in bad taste and works in creating a label against a journalist and allowing the dissemination of hate against them. It ignites an already charged up following to further discredit a member of the media.
While Mazari and other leaders are entitled to their opinions and can refute a report by a media person, to level accusations and petty attacks is condemnable. They have the power to unleash a tirade of attacks against journalists and set a dangerous precedence.