PPF alarmed by injuries to Geo News cameraperson Samiullah Khan in suicide blast at political party workers’ convention in Bajaur; draw attention to the safety of media professionals on the ground
Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF) is alarmed by injuries to Geo News cameraperson Samiullah Khan while on duty when a suicide blast at a workers’ convention for the political party, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazal (JUI-F), killed 54 people and injured 83 others on July 30 in the Bajaur district of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. We pray for the speedy and complete recovery of the cameraperson.
With general elections anticipated in Pakistan in October 2023 and heightened political activity to take place ahead of the elections, PPF draws attention to the safety of media professionals reporting on the ground.
The injuries experienced by Khan should serve as a reminder to political parties, the government, and media organizations about the importance of providing journalists with the necessary safety equipment and taking the necessary measures for the safety of journalists in order to protect them best.
On July 30, as the blast took place in Khar, a town in Bajaur, Samiullah was amongst the injured. Geo had initially reported that the cameraperson was said to be in “critical condition.”
Speaking to PPF, Khan shared that at the time of the blast, he was near the stage, and at around 4 p.m. when the blast took place, he was taking photographs. Recalling the incident, he said he felt faint from the massive explosion.
Khan was the only media professional who had been taking photographs near the stage, and at the time of the incident, he was not wearing any safety equipment.
The cameraperson shared that he was currently in the Bajaur District Headquarters Hospital and would be shifted to the GHQ Peshawar Hospital via helicopter for surgery as he had received serious head injuries and was in critical condition.
Geo News Peshawar Bureau Chief Shakeel Farman said that Khan had fortunately remained safe despite being injured in the blast. Farman said that the cameraperson was not wearing any safety gear, adding that they were not expecting such an incident. Farman added that after this incident, the correspondents and media professionals would wear safety equipment while covering such workers’ conventions.
Bajaur Press Club President Hasbanullah Khan strongly condemned the blast and sent prayers for the speedy recovery of the cameraperson.
In a statement, the Bajaur Press Club demanded that the government bear the cost of Khan’s treatment.
Khyber Union of Journalists President Nasir Hussain condemned the blast and expressed grief over the injuries to the cameraperson. Hussain lamented that in Bajaur, hardly any correspondents were being paid their salaries, nor was Khan provided with the safety gear that should be mandatory for reporters and media professionals.
Since 2002, PPF has documented 28 deaths of media professionals while on assignment out of the 77 killings of journalists.
The injuries to Khan should serve as a reminder of the need to ensure the safety of the media on the frontlines, particularly during periods of heightened political activity such as general elections.
We draw attention to the Protection of Journalists and Media Professionals Act 2021, under which it is compulsory for media organizations to provide each journalist and media professional with compulsory safety training within the first month of their recruitment and prior to engaging them in any reporting from any location.
The Election Commission of Pakistan’s Code of Conduct for the National Media 2023 states: “The government and law enforcing agencies shall provide protection to media persons, and media houses to maintain their freedom of expression.” The ECP must provide clear measures that are necessary in order to best ensure the safety of media professionals on the ground instead of a vague statement that does not provide details of measures that must be taken for the safety of the media.
We also emphasize the need for the ECP’s Code of Conduct for Political Parties, Contesting Candidates, and Election Agents to be more clear in the obligations of political parties to the safety of media professionals.