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Attacks on journalists in Pakistan met with impunity in 2015

Pakistani journalists shout slogans to condemn the killing of journalists, 9 September 2015 in Peshawar, Pakistan
Pakistani journalists shout slogans to condemn the killing of journalists, 9 September 2015 in Peshawar, Pakistan

AP Photo/Mohammad Sajjad

This report was originally published on on 31 December 2015.

Two media personnel were killed, while six others were injured and many were manhandled during 2015. In addition 11 media personnel were booked in false cases and equipment of many media workers was damaged or destroyed during the year. Television channels remained the primary target of violent attacks during the year.

According to research by the Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF), federal or provincial governments did not respond seriously to any of the fifteen incidents of violence against media personnel during the year. Not a single case relating to violence against media resulted in arrests and prosecution, despite repeated assurances by government ministers.

Two media personnel murdered

According to the details of the PPF's "Pakistan Media Safety Report 2015", Arshad Ali Jaffery, a technical engineer for the Digital Satellite News Gathering (DSNG) van of Geo News, was killed and the driver Anis Chauhan injured on September 8, when unidentified armed men opened fire on their vehicle in Karachi. No one claimed responsibility for this attack and no arrests for the murder have yet been made.

Zaman Mehsud, reporter of daily Ummat and Sana news agency, based in Tank, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, was ambushed and shot dead on November 3; ironically one day after the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists was commemorated in Pakistan and the rest of the world. Taliban commander Qari Saifullah claimed responsibility for his murder and said: "We killed him because he was writing against us. We have some other journalists on our hit list in the region; soon we will target them."

Six media personnel injured

All six cases of violence leading to injuries of media personnel occurred in the last two months of the year.

On November 20, hand grenades were hurled at the Faisalabad bureau office of Dunya News television channel injuring two staff members, Saifur Rehman, a business executive, and Nazar Hussain, a security guard. The attackers left a note claiming the attack was [orchestrated] by followers of Daulat Islamia Khurasan (Islamic State Khurasan) and warned of more attacks on the media.

Another attack where responsibility was claimed by activists of Daulat Islamia Khurasan (Islamic State Khurasan) occurred on December 1. The attackers threw a hand grenade at the Lahore offices of Din News that injured the organization's receptionist Masood Mukhtar as well as two police constables, Mohammed Ijaz and Nasir Abbas. In this incident also, the attackers left a note threatening the media.

Another attack on a DSNG occurred on November 27 in Karachi, when unidentified armed men opened fire on the DSNG van belonging to Dawn News and injured its engineer Hassan Mateen. No one claimed responsibility for the attack.

Another attack by a homemade explosive device was aimed at the Express News office in Sargodha on December 7. In this attack, Masood Mukhtar, a security guard for the TV channel, received injuries. Nobody claimed responsibility for the attack.

Journalists detained

Illegal detention and abduction of journalists is a common occurrence in conflict areas and tribal areas in the country. Law enforcement agencies, militants and civil administration routinely indulge in abductions and illegal detentions to threaten journalists who do not tow the line. In most cases, families and colleagues of the detained journalists prefer to plead for their release rather than publicize the illegal actions, for fear of harm to those detained.

The two cases given below are examples of such detentions in 2015.

On October 10, Frontier Constabulary (FC) personnel raided the house of Rahat Shinwari, a correspondent of an Urdu daily, Ausaf, in Landi Kotal, a town of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan. They blindfolded and handcuffed him and took him to an unknown destination. He was released the next day without any reason being given for his detention.

On March 31, the security forces detained Nasrum Minallah, a correspondent of Express Tribune, along with Haji Pazir Gul, a correspondent of Dawn, and Abidullah Amin of Roznama Pakistan and his brother Shafiqullah Amin. They were detained for 10 hours at Kajori check post in North Waziristan Agency (NWA) near the Pak-Afghan border as they were on their way to cover a story on internally displaced persons (IDPs).

Manhandling of media personnel

The PPF report also recorded a number of cases of manhandling and harassment of media workers in the year 2015.

On December 20, Muhammad Ansar, a reporter of Aaj News television channel, was manhandled by police for covering the allegedly illegal closure of sugar mills in Tando Muhammad Khan, a district in the southern part of Sindh province in Pakistan.

On August 20, security guards of Liaquat National Hospital (LNH) Karachi manhandled eleven media persons who arrived there to cover the expected visit of Prime Minister Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif. Those manhandled included Danyal Sayyed, reporter of AbbTakk News; Tanveer Ahmed reporter of Dawn News; Talha, cameraman of Dawn News; Arif Khan, cameraman of Aaj News; Khawar Khan, reporter of Geo News; Rajab Ali, reporter of NEO TV; Taha Ubadi, reporter of Dunya TV; Kafeel Ahmed, reporter of AAJ TV; Muhammad Ashad, reporter of C 92; Waqas Lodhi, cameraman of Metro TV and Imran Yameen, cameraman of Dunya TV.

On May 23, the Special Security Unit (SSU) of the police beat up reporters, photographers and cameramen while they were covering the appearance of Dr. Zulfiqar Mirza outside the Sindh High Court (SHC) in Karachi. The police used wooden staffs to beat them and also damaged their equipment.

Journalists and media workers booked in false cases

On June 2, eleven journalists and media workers were booked in false cases. Three of them were charged under the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA). Those charged claim the real reason for registering criminal cases against journalists and media workers was because they covered the activities of Dr Zulfiqar Mirza, who had broken away from the Pakistan People's Party (PPP),

Those who had cases registered against them included Mumtaz Memon and Niaz Memon of the daily Sindh; Yousuf Jani and Dir Murad Mari of the daily Koshish; Shankar Kumar and Meharrudin Mari of the daily Hilal e Pakistan; Shafqat Pinyaro of the daily Sindh and Express News, Aachar Azeem of the daily Tameer e Sindh; Murtaza Memon of Neo TV, and Haji Khan Lashari of the daily Koshish.

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