Quetta Press Club Sealed Shut to Block BYC Seminar, Journalists Vow Nationwide Protests | Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Pakistan Press Foundation

Quetta Press Club Sealed Shut to Block BYC Seminar, Journalists Vow Nationwide Protests

Pakistan Press Foundation
Police and local administration officials sealed shut the gates of the Quetta Press Club on May 18 in a move raising concerns about press freedom. The closure was reportedly an attempt to prevent the Baloch Yakjehti Committee (BYC) from holding a seminar at the venue.

BYC members arrived at the press club only to find it inaccessible. They broke the locks to hold their seminar as planned.  The press club’s hall was reopened on the same day soon after the incident.

Both the Balochistan Union of Journalists (BUJ) and the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) condemned the press club closure.

The PFUJ issued a statement through its President Afzal Butt and Secretary General Arshad Ansari calling press clubs “neutral areas” for raising the voices of those facing state repression. Demanding immediate restoration of press club activities, the PFUJ leaders pointed to Article 19 of the Constitution, which guarantees the right to free speech and expression for every citizen. They further stated that “the country is facing the worst kind of media gagging and denial of freedom of expression, and Balochistan is specifically being targeted.”

The BUJ termed the closure “an attack on the freedom of press” and a blatant violation of Article 19 of the Constitution.

In response to this attack on press freedom, the BUJ plans to begin their protests with a walkout by its members from the Balochistan Assembly on May 20th, followed by a demonstration held outside the Assembly building. If there is a failure to respond to their demands, the BUJ has called for a nationwide Black Day to be observed on May 21st. Press clubs across Pakistan are expected to launch protests on the call of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists.

On May 20, BUJ President Khalil Ahmed told PPF that members of BUJ and the Quetta Press Club, along with other journalists, staged a walkout from the Balochistan Assembly and protested outside the building. The Chief Minister of Balochistan, Sarfraz Bugti, condemned the incident in the assembly and announced the formation of an investigation committee. Representatives from BUJ and the Quetta Press Club are scheduled to meet with the Chief Minister on May 21 for further discussions. They have also called for a nationwide “Black Day” on May 21, with expected participation from press clubs across Pakistan.

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