No arrests made for murder of two media personnel in Pakistan. Those who injured six media men also remain free
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 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 arrest 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 of 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 the 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 rest of the world. Taliban commander, Qari Saifullah, claimed the 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 injury of media personnel occurred in the last two months of the year.
On November 20, hand grenades were hurled on 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 were by followers of Daulat Islamia Khurasan (Islamic State Khurasan) and warned of more attacks on media.
Another attack where the responsibility was claimed by activists of Daulat Islamia Khurasan (Islamic State Khurasan) was on December 1. The attackers threw a hand grenade at 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 t note threatening the media.
Another incident of attack on a DSNG was occurred 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 on Express News office in Sargodha on December 7. In this attack, Masood Mukhtar, a security guard of the television channel, received injuries. Nobody claimed the responsibility for the attack.
Illegal detention and abduction of journalists is a common occurrence in conflict areas and tribal areas of the country. Law enforcement agencies, militants and civil administration routinely indulge in abductions and illegal detentions to threaten journalists who do not tow their 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 to an unknown destination. He as released the next day without giving reason for his detention.
On 31 March, 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 Pak-Afghan border as they were going for the coverage of 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 20th December, 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 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 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 daily Koshish.
Despite high sounding promises of ensuring safety of media, the government has not taken any serious steps to introduce effective legislations that would punish those that inflict harm of media in Pakistan.
Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF), a non-governmental organization, is an independent, media documentation and training center, committed to promoting and defending freedom of expression has again demanded that criminal cases should not only be registered but should also be properly investigated and prosecuted against the perpetrators of violence against media.