Pakistan Press Foundation Press Freedom Report 2014

Pakistan Press Foundation Press Freedom Report 2014 Introduction 2014 has been one of the most difficult years for Pakistani media.In addition to the alarming but now familiar threats from militant groups, law enforcement agencies and political parties and groups, the Pakistani media became bitterly divided following the attempted murder of Hamid Mir, a popular television host of Geo News, Pakistan’s most viewed televisions channel. 2014 again saw media professionals paying a heavy price in blood for keeping Pakistani citizens informed in an increasingly polarized and violence wrecked country. Eight media personnel, including three journalists were killed during the year. At least thirty-five media practitioners were injured during 2014. The murderous attack on Hamid Mir on April 19 and the ensuing tension between Geo-Jang group and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and military on the other, has resulted in the severe setbacks for the Pakistani media. The unprecedented reversals in media freedoms include divisions between media organisations, which isolated the Geo-Jang media group. The ensuing viscous propaganda between Geo and rival media group badly tarnished the image the media among the public. Having isolated the Geo-Jang group, the distribution of the group’s newspapers and of television channels was disrupted to an extent not previously seen in the history of the country. In order seek a closure to the episode the government rather clumsily through Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) suspended the Geo Group for a period of 15 days. The bickering between media groups overshadowed the terrible toll of life that included the fatal shooting of Shan Dahar, reporter of “Abb Takk”TV channel on the night of December 31 in Badh, in Larkana district of Sindh province of Pakistan. He was shot in his back and was taken to the hospital where he remained unattended until he succumbed to his injuries in the early hours of January 1. The same month on January 17 a targeted attack on the van of DSNG van of Express Television channel that killed three media workers. In March the driver of television anchor Raza Rumi was killed in a shooting on his car. Later in the year on August 28 unidentified assailants barged into the offices offices of “Online” news agency on in Quetta, the capital of the restive Balochistan province and murdered Irshad Mustoi, Bureau Chief, Abdul Rasool Khajjak, reporter and accountant Muhammad Younas. The largest number of injuries occurred on August 31 when 28 journalists, cameramen and other media workers were injured during clashes between police and the protest demonstration led by the opposition Pakistan Tehrik Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Awami Tehrik (PTI). The next day on September 1, protestors belonging to PTI and PAT attacked the off ices of the state owned Pakistan Television (PTV). They took over the control room and broadcasts of PTV were disrupted for a few hours. Perhaps the only silver lining in all this could be the realization among the media of the need to develop effective codes of conduct to promotemore ethical working environment and for effective mechanisms to resolve complaints against media. There is also a greater realization among media organizations of the need to cooperate with civil society and political groups to arrest the dramatic deterioration in the freedom of expression and media safety situation in Pakistan. On the positive side, the killers of Wali Khan Babar, a Pakistani journalist were convicted by the criminal justice system of Pakistan when on Saturday March 1, 2014 a Pakistani court convicted six defendants for their roles in the murder of Wali Khan Babar, a Geo TV journalist who was shot dead in Karachi in January 2011. KILLINGS OF MEDIA WORKERS. Seven media workers including three journalists were killed in the line of duty in 2014. One of them, Shan Dahar, belonged to province Sindh while other two Irshad Mastoi and Abdul Rasool Khajjak were from Baluchistan. Journalist shot dead in Sindh Shan Dahar, reporter of “Abb Takk” TV channel was shot on the night of December 31 in Badh, in Larkana district of Sindh province of Pakistan. He was shot in his back and was taken to the hospital where he remained unattended until he succumbed to his injuries in the early hours of January 1. He was survived by two minor daughters. Despite compelling evidence pointing the cause of his killing being his reporting on use of fake medicines in local government hospitals, police report declared his death as accidental.The flawed police report could sabotage any hope for proper investigation and prosecution for the assailants and the government needs to formally order credible reinvestigation of the attack. There is also need for public release of the reports of the medical committees to investigate criminal negligence of hospital where Dahar lay unattended despite frantic pleas by his sisters for hospital doctors to go to the hospital to treat his life threatening wounds. To mark the World Press Freedom Day, Pakistan Press Foundation conferred the 2014 PPF Press Freedom Award on Shan Dahar. Three media workers shot dead in Karachi Three staffers of “Express News” TV channel were killed on January 17, 2014, when unknown armed men on motorcycles opened fire at the stationary Digital Satellite News Gathering (DSNG) van of the channel in Karachi, the capital city of Pakistan’s southern Sindh province. Those killed included Waqas Aziz Khan, technician; Muhammad Khalid, van driver; and Muhammad Ashraf, security guard. Khalid is survived by his wife and three children; Khan was the eldest of two siblings while Ashraf got married about three months ago. All three victims seated in front of the van were received bullets were rushed to the hospital where they were pronounced dead. “They were shot multiple times from close range and died due to excessive blood loss” said the medico-legal officer at the hospital. This was the third and most lethal attack on Express media group in the space of five months. In two previous attacks, the main offices of Express were targeted. Soon after the attack, in a live telephone call to a talk show on Express TV, Ehsanullah Ehsan, former spokesman for Tahreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed the responsibility of killings. He said “At present, Pakistani media is playing the role of (enemies and spread) venomous propaganda against Tehreek-e-Taliban. They have assumed the (role of) opposition. We had intimated the media earlier and warn it once again that (they must) side with us in this venomous propaganda.” In response to the incident, government constituted a two-member committee, comprising the Minister for Information and Broadcasting, Senator Pervaiz Rashid and Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan to contact media houses and journalists’ bodies to devise a strategy for security of journalists. However, no follow up action whatsoever has so far been taken by the committee. Driver of television anchor person Raza Rumi killed in attack on his car. The driver of the Raza Rumi, columnist and an anchor for the news show “Khabar Se Agay” of Express News television channel was killed in an attacked by unidentified armed men on March 28at about 8:30 PM. The incident took place in Lahore, the capital of Punjab province of Pakistan. The car driver was killed and a security guard sustained serious injuries in attack while the journalist remained unhurt. This was the fifth attack on same media group since 2013. No one claimed the responsibility for the attack. The attack took place just a few hundred yards away from the Express News office, which Rumi along with his security guard and driver had just left after hosting his program me when unidentified men, apparently waiting for him, opened fire on his car. The driver, identified as Muhammad Mustafa, 25, received eight bullet wounds on different parts of his body, including chest and head. He lost control over the car, resulting in collision with an electric pole. He was rushed to the hospital where he died. Also the guard received two bullets in his shoulder. Fearing for his life, Rumi left Pakistan soon after the attack. Two journalists killed in Baluchistan Irshad Mustoi, Bureau Chief and Abdul Rasool Khajjak, reporter, and Mohammed Younas, account of “Online” news agency lost their lives when unidentified assailants attacked the offices of the news agency on August 28in Quetta, the capital of Balochistan province.They were working in their office when armed men barged in at about 7:45 PM and opened fire. No one claimed responsibility for the attack. Khajjak and Younas died instantly while Irshad was critically injured and died on way to hospital. They suffered fatal bullet wounds in chest and head. Mustoi, 35-year-old was also working as Assignment Editor of ARY News television channel. He was also General Secretary of Balochistan Union of Journalist (BUJ). The deceased left behind a widow, two daughters and a one year-old son. Abdul Rasool Khajak was a final year student of mass communication at Balochistan University. He had completed a three-month internship in the news agency and then started working as a reporter. ATTACKS ON MEDIA Two media houses attacked Two employees of a media house were injured on February 17when two unknown men riding on a bike hurled hand-grenades at the main gates of two media houses in Karachi namely, Business Recorder Group and Nawa-i-Waqt. No one has claimed the responsibility of attacks. Another bomb was discovered on February 18 in the parking lot of ARY television network. The attacks come within a month of the killing of three staff members of Express News, for which no one has yet been arrested. The injured were Rasool Baksh, Guard and Abdus Sattar, driver of Business Recorder who were rushed to a nearby hospital. The attackers on a motorbike threw a low-intensity bomb at the guards’ check post outside the building of Business Recorder Group at around 7 PM, then went toward the Nawa-i-Waqt Group building and threw another crude bomb before fleeing the scene. The second bomb did not explode and was defused by police. While the first bomb also damaged the main gate of the office and vehicles parked outside. An official of the Bomb Disposal Squad (BDS) said the bomb was a hand-made cracker, prepared in a soft-drink tin and it contained around 250 to 300 grams of Aluminium powder as explosive. In a separate incident an explosive material found in the car parking of ARY TV channel’s head office in the morning of February 18. The bomb did not explode and was diffused by police. Express News anchor received death threats Imtiaz Alam, a journalist and anchor for Express News television channel, received death threats on the night of April 3 in Lahore, the capital of Punjab province. He is also the editor of the quarterly South Asian Journal and secretary general of the South Asian Free Media Association (SAFMA). No one claimed responsibility for the threats. Popular television anchor Hamid Mir shot, injured in Karachi Hamid Mir, Senior journalist and anchor person of Pakistan’s popular talk show “Capital Talk” on leading television channel “Geo News” was seriously injured in a gun attack on April 19 at about 5:30 pm in Karachi, the capital city of Sindh province. Mir was on the way from airport to his office when an armed man standing at the corner of a turning road, opened fire. Four unidentified armed men on two motorcycles followed his car and continued to fire from at him. He received six bullets, one bullet in his large intestine two in his left thigh bone, one in hip bone, one bullet crossed from his hand while one crossed after touching his ribs. On April 20, the government established a three-member Judicial Commission to probe the attack on Hamid Mir is a positive development. However, the commission has not yet released the report of its findings. Amir Mir, brother of Hamid Mir stated that Hamid Mir had told his family, employers, government officials and army officials that some officials of Pakistan’s Inter Service Intelligence (ISI), including ISI’s Director General Lt. Gen Zaheerul Islam had prepared a plan to eliminate Hamid. Amir Mir’s allegations were also broadcast on Geo television which not only resulted in prolonged tension between ISI, army and Geo television but also resulted in deep and damaging split within Pakistani media Journalist of Jang group Assaulted in Punjab Zafar Aheer, Resident Editor of “Daily Jang” was attacked by unknown armed men while returning home from work on May 31in the city of Multan of Punjab province. Six masked men, riding two motorcycles and a car intercepted him and started beating him. He was hit with gun butts and received injuries in his head, shoulders, legs and other parts of the body. Beside beating him and snatching his mobile, attackers also damaged his car. The attackers talked of shooting him on the legs and called him a traitor. Licenses of two television channels suspended for broadcasting blasphemous content On 20th June Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) announced that the licenses of private TV channels Geo Entertainment and ARY News were suspended allegedly for broadcasting blasphemous content. Geo Entertainment was suspended for one month along with a Rs10 million fine, while the license of ARY News was suspended for 15 days and a similar fine. ARY filed for and received a stay order from the Sindh High Court against the suspension and fine imposed by PEMRA. House of Jamshed Bhagwan, the Peshawar bureau chief of Express News TV attacked The house of Jamshed Bhagwan, Bureau Chief of Express News television channel was attacked with an explosive for the third time on July 2 in Peshawar, the capital of province Khyber-Pakhtukhuwa. A remote-controlled explosive material was placed by the unidentified men, outside the residence of Bhagwan, and it exploded while the journalist was at home. The Express Tribune reported that Bhagwan was leaving his house along with his wife when he saw unidentified persons on motorcycle placing a homemade bomb at the door. The bomb exploded as soon as Bhagwan and his wife ran inside their house to take cover. There were no casualties but the main gate, window panes and car were damaged. Earlier this year on March 19, an improvised explosive device (IED) with two kilograms of explosives was found in front of his house which was subsequently defused by the Bomb Disposal Squad. On April 6, 2014 two masked men riding a motorcycle threw a hand grenade at the main gate of house damaging the gate. The journalist and his family members remained unhurt. 28 media persons injured in police attack during rioting in Pakistan; PTV stormed in Islamabad. At least 28 journalists, cameramen and media workers were injured in an attack by police in Islamabad on August 31. The police attack came during clashes between personnel of law enforcement agencies and activists of two opposition political parties, Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI). The media persons came under attack while they were covering heavy police teargas shelling on PTI and PAT activists. Police beat up the media persons and also damaged vehicles of seven media houses. The injured media persons were Khuram Fayaz, Samma TV cameraman; Ajab Khan, Samma TV cameraman; Awais Qazi, Samma TV cameraman; Atif Yousuf, Waqt TV cameraman; Imran Iqbal, Waqt TV cameraman; Mohammad Zahid, Waqt TV DSNG operator; Jameel Kiyani, Waqt TV driver; Essa Naqvi, Dunya TV reporter; Asad Ayub, Dunya TV reporter; Adnan Dunya TV DSNG Engineer; Anjum Fatemi, Dunya TV cameraman; Asif Abdullah, ARY News cameraman; Iqbal Zaib, ARY News cameraman; Kashif Abbasi, DawnNews cameraman; Naushad Abbasi, DawnNews cameraman; Yasir Malik, DawnNews reporter; Samar Abbas, DawnNews reporter; Ashfaq Hussain, DawnNews cameraman; Imran Chaudhry, DawnNews cameraman; Mansoor Ahmed, DawnNews cameraman; Amir Alam, Express News cameraman, Majid Shah, Express News cameraman, Usman Afzal, Express News Cameraman; Rana Tariq, Aaj TV reporters; Haroon Khursheed, Aaj TV cameraman; and Ghulam Ali, Aaj TV cameraman. PTV office stormed in Islamabad On September 1, hundreds of activists of PTI and PAT barged into headquarters of state owned Pakistan Television (PTV). All entrances to PTV headquarters were occupied by protesters as they began to damage the property, working their way through the first, second and third floors. Wires were cut off as protesters entered the panel room. They took over the programming control room after which transmission was taken off air temporarily. The transmission was later restored after the army intervened and expelled the protesters from the PTV building. PEMRA banned TV anchor and his program me for contempt of court On October 19, the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) bannedARY News anchor Mubashir Lucman and his programme ‘Khara Such’ ostensibly in compliance of the order by the Lahore High Court (LHC). The ban applied on his appearance in any other TV programme in any capacity. Earlier, the LHC issued bailable arrest warrants of ARY News chief executive officer Salman Iqbal, Mubashir Lucman, the programme’s producer and one other for not appearing before the court despite having been summoned.The court placed restrictions on airing of the show and participation of the anchor in any other TV programme. It ordered inclusion of the name of Mr Lucman in the Exit Control List (ECL) preventing him from leaving the country. Following an appeal, the Supreme Court allowed television anchor to resume hosting talk shows temporarily by suspending an Islamabad High Court (IHC). Several television news channels went off the air for about six hours On October 25, 2014 in Karachi and other parts of Sindh province after threats were issued by unidentified men over the telephone to some cable operators. Without naming any political party, the president of the Cable Operators Association, Khalid Arain, said they were threatened by a political party and ordered to suspend the transmission of these channels. The cable operators had no other option but to comply with this request. According to the daily The Nation, Arain said this party wanted to shut the channels’ transmissions as they had allegedly not given due coverage to their recent event. “They threatened to set our systems on fire,” he said. Five media professionals injured when low powered explosives hurled at television channels’ vans, staff injured in Islamabad Five media professionals were injured when two unknown motorcycle riders hurled low powered explosive devices, commonly called crackers, at digital satellite news gathering (DSNG) vans of private TV channels Dawn News, Dunya News and Abb Tak News at Islamabad on Sunday, November 30. DSNG engineer Ziaul Haq and cameraman Mohsin Ali of Dawn News, Nadir Hussain and Amir Ishfaq of Duniya News and Suleman Mubarik of Abb Takk News were injured who received treatment by medical staff on the spot. The DSNG vans were partially damaged in the attack. The Police registered a case against unnamed attackers and Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Islamabad Asmatullah Junejo said the target was the DSNG of Dawn News. ARY News team arrested for exposing transport of illegal arms on state railways The investigative reporting team of a private television channel in Pakistan was arrested and criminally charged on December 3, 2014 for an expose on the transport of illegal arms and ammunition on state owned railways. ARY News said two of its investigative journalists, Asif Qureshi and Zulqarnain Sheikh, were not only arrested but also assaulted by the Railway Police. The Sar-e-Aam television programme broadcast on the ARY News television channel produced a report on the transport of weapons and explosives carried out with the connivance of corrupt railway officials. The programme caught railway officials taking bribes to transport illegal weapons from Karachi to Lahore. Instead of investigating the serious security lapse, the railway authorities registered a case of arms smuggling against the media team itself. General Manager of the Railways, Javed Anwar, later told the journalists that the railways employees who are guilty of aiding in the transport of arms and explosives had been suspended. GEO television network in hot waters after broadcasting unsubstantiated allegations against intelligence agency Geo, the country’s leading and most popular news channel remained in hot waters since Hamid Mir, Geo’s leading anchor was attacked in Karachi on April 19 and the television channel broadcast unsubstantiated allegation by his brother that Lt. Gen. Zaheerul Islam, Director General of Pakistan’s military Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) was responsible for the attack. Pressure was exerted on cable operators, through whom private television programmes are broadcast, to suspend transmission of Geo television network channels. In May, the industry association of cable television operators decided to suspend the transmission of Geo Television Network channels ostensibly for broadcasting blasphemous content. On the evening of 19 July four armed men stormed the office of World Call cable operator located in the posh Clifton locality of Karachi, forced employees to vacate the office and then set fire to the premises. The arson attack seemed to be in retaliation against the cable operator’s restoration of Geo Television. Following the attack World Call once again suspended the transmission of Geo Television channels after the arson attack. The distribution of newspapers belonging to the Jang-Geo group was also seriously disrupted. A large number of Jang group newspaper hawkers were warned not to carry and deliver Jangor The News. Similarly, many newspaper agents in Sindh and Punjab provinces received telephone calls ordering them to stop selling ‘Ghaddar’ (traitor) newspapers. The reduced television audience and newspaper circulation led to dramatic reduction in advertising revenue leading to a serious financial crisis for the group. The group also alleged that its staff was being intimidated. Geo said that its employees including female staff, contributors, distributors and editorial writers are being followed, and were receiving threatening letters. They feared they could be attacked as the media group has been accused of being anti-state and anti-army. Faysal Aziz Khan, Geo’s Karachi Bureau Chief, who was staying at the hospital where Hamid Mir was being treated, was constantly followed and called a “traitor”. When he confronted his follower, he was told “It’s our job to keep an eye on you”. Geo cameraman Asif Kabeer was attacked and severely beaten on April 29 in Rawalpindi. He was called traitor by assailants. In another incident, the residence of Imdad Soomro, investigative reporter for The News, was attacked and burnt on April 30 in Sehwan, Sindh. The group chief executive’s car was also attacked when he visited his lawyer. An editorial writer for The News, which belongs to the same media group, received a phone call at 4 am on April 30 in Islamabad; he was told to stop writing for the paper and threatened with dire consequences if he didn’t stop. He also found an envelope slipped under the door containing the same threat. The same letter was delivered to his Karachi residence as well. On April 30, the Geo office in Islamabad was surrounded by an unruly mob. They chanted slogans accusing the channel of being anti-state. Based on a complaint filed by the Ministry of Defense on April 22, 0n June 6 the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) suspended Geo TV’s license for 15 days and imposed a fine of Rs10 million (approx. US$100,000). The complaint accused Geo TV of airing unsubstantiated allegations against the chief of Pakistan’s military Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI). The five-member PEMRA committee suspended the licenses of Geo News, Geo Entertainment and Geo Tez TV, three of the five TV channels owned and operated by the Geo/Jang group. According to a PEMRA press release, the fine had to be paid before the expiry of the suspension period. It was also decided that in case of a repeat violation by Geo TV, the regulatory agency shall initiate proceedings for the revocation of the license. Tension between Geo and Pakistan Tehrik Insaf Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairperson Imran Khan added salt to already injured Geo and alleged that the Jang and Geo Group had a hand in the rigging the 2013 national elections. This resulted in supporters of PTI to intimidate and attack staff of Geo and Jang group. On August 31, supporters of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) attacked the Geo, The News and Jang offices in Islamabad.The windows of the offices in Islamabad were broken as stones were pelted by the mob. Activists of these political parties once again attacked the offices of Geo television network on the night of September 7, 2014. Nobody was injured in the attack. Protesters vandalized the premises of Geo TV, as well as Daily “The News” and Daily “Jang”. They smashed the windscreens of vehicles of staff parked there, and also damaged the security wall before entering the premises. In Faisalabad on December 8, 2014, PTI activists also abused Geo News anchorperson Maria Memon, reporters Irfanullah and Hammad Ahmad and threw sticks at them when they were covering their protest rally. Their DSNG van was damaged in this attack. Infuriated PTI workers also wrote provocative slogans on their van with spray paint. In Karachi on December 12, 2014, when PTI Chairman Imran Khan finished his speech and left the venue of his protest rally, PTI workers harassed the Geo News team including its female reporters Sidrah Dar, Umaimah Malik, and Cameraman Zubair Memon of Abb Takk television. They threw stones and empty bottles at the Geo News (DSNG) van. They also threw sticks and empty bottles and stones at the senior analyst, Mazhar Abbas, and other staff of the Geo News. They also harassed a female reporter, Sidrah, and used abusive language against her. On December 15, 2014, in the city of Lahore, the capital of Punjab, Pakistan’s largest province, activists of the opposition political party, Pakistan Tehrik Insaf (PTI) attacked and harassed a media team of private television channel Geo News as it was covering their protest demonstration and preventing them from reporting. Geo TV said that the protesters attacked their anchorperson Sana Mirza, Sohail Warraich, reporters Jawad Malik, Ameen Hafeez , Ahmed Fraz and cameraman Khwaja Amir with stones, glass projectiles and bottles, besides using slingshots to hurl bricks at them. PTI workers hurled bottles and harassed reporter Sana Mirza, who is also Joint Secretary of Karachi Union of Journalists (KUJ)and raised hostile slogans where she was unable to hold back her tears. They pelted the Geo News van (DSNG) with stones. As a result, reporter Ahmad Faraz and cameraman Khwaja Amir received minor injuries. The protesters also threatened a Geo team at Liberty Chowk area of Lahore and stopped them from coverage. Cable operators suspend transmission of private TV channels in Balochistan province due to threat The transmission of private news channels was suspended in Quetta and the Baloch-dominated areas of Balochistan province since December 3, 2014 due to threats issued against cable operators by the nationalist outfit, Baloch Students Organisation (BSO). Earlier, BSO held a news conference during which it announced a boycott of all television news channels and asked them to suspend their transmission for an indefinite period throughout Balochistan. The BSO alleged that the electronic media’s converge of Balochistan issues was “pathetically poor”. The Central Organiser of BSO, Javed Baloch, said the concerned media representatives and officials had been told about this situation. He lamented that the point of view of Baloch nationalists was being ignored. The President of Balochistan Union of Journalists (BUJ), Irfan Saeed, and the Balochistan Joint Media Action Committee (BJMAC) condemned the closure of the news TV channels and urged the government and the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) to take the necessary actions to resolve the problem. Pakistan Press Foundation The post Pakistan Press Foundation Press Freedom Report 2014 appeared first on Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF).