PPF condemns widespread acts of violence against media during protests in Peshawar following Imran Khan’s arrest.
Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF) condemns the widespread acts of violence against media workers in Peshawar, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, in the protests that followed the arrest of former prime minister and Pakistan Tehreek i Insaf Chairman Imran Khan on May 9. While political sentiments are running high and party workers are charged, it is essential for political parties and authorities to remember the role of the media and allow them to do their work without the fear of reprisal.
The attacks on the media, including attacks on multiple channels DSNG vans, the arrest and attack on media persons, and the attack on a media house documented in Peshawar, the provincial capital of KP, are representative of the vulnerable position that media workers in the frontline are placed in.
PTI party leadership must emphasize that attacks on the media during protests are unjustified and ensure that their party workers do not make the media the target of their sentiments. Ensuring the safety of journalists is crucial, particularly in times of political crisis, so that they are able to provide vital information to the public.
On May 10, the building of the state-owned Radio Pakistan in Peshawar was attacked. Speaking to PPF, Radio Pakistan Director General Tahir Hassan Khan said that “PTI’s violent mob” had attacked the building on May 10 and continued to protest outside the building when he spoke with PPF. Khan said that all records of the company were set ablaze. Additionally, one administrative staff member was hurt due to the fire.
“No other staff was injured, but they are all in a state of shock and trauma,” he said, adding that currently the bureau had been shifted to Islamabad, and broadcast and transmission of Radio Pakistan was ongoing.
Speaking to PPF, Radio Pakistan Deputy News Controller in Peshawar, Matiullah Khan, said that at around 1:30 pm, hundreds of protestors had attacked the buildings of Radio Pakistan and Associated Press of Pakistan.
In an update shared on their website, Radio Pakistan Peshawar Station Director Ijaz Khan said that around 200 protestors had entered the office building in the morning and broken the gate. He said that the reception area was destroyed, as well as the main studios where equipment was destroyed. As per the report, Khan added that the protestors once again entered the building at noon and “ransacked inside the main building,” including damaging equipment such as computers and official records. He added that three official vehicles were also set ablaze.
In a separate incident, Dawn News TV Peshawar Bureau Chief Ali Akber told PPF that a Dawn DSNG van and the vans for four other media channels had been targeted in the protests on May 9 following Khan’s arrest. Additionally, Dawn News TV correspondent Arif Hayat was also attacked.
“The intention of the mob was to attack and target the media channels and professionals during the protest, which is a condemnable act,” Akbar said.
Speaking to PPF, Hayat shared that he was informed that PTI was staging a protest in the Hashtnagri area of Peshawar, calling for the release of Khan.
Hayat said that when they reached the site for coverage, they saw that DSNG vans for Aaj News and Khyber News were being pelted with stones. The DSNG vans for Dawn and Express News also came under attack.
“We were equipped with all the safety measures for protection; however, the mob attacked the van with plastic and wooden rods. The backside of the DSNG was broken due to the attack. My left shoulder was also affected by the broken mirrors of the DSNG van,” he shared, adding that the driver and DSNG operator had remained safe.
“We had no idea this would happen. We did not know the supporters would become this aggressive and violent,” Hayat added.
Aaj TV Peshawar Bureau Chief Farzana Ali told PPF that a DSNG van of Aaj TV had been attacked by protestors, as a result of which the windscreen of the van was broken. Ali said that, fortunately, the van driver and reporters had remained safe.
Additionally, Express News Peshawar reporter Ahtesham Khan shared that the protesters had attacked that Express News reporter Vishal Khan, but fortunately, no injuries had occurred.
Peshawar Press Club General Secretary Irfan Moosazai added that in Mardan city of KP, Mashal Radio correspondent Azmat Khan had been arrested by the police officials in a misunderstanding.
Speaking to PPF, Khan recalled the incident and said police officials arrested him in a misunderstanding, thinking he was a PTI worker.
“They arrested me for one and a half hours, and on special instructions of the Inspector General and the district police officer (DPO), they released me and apologized,” Khan added.
Peshawar Press Club President Arshad Aziz Malik and General Secretary Irfan Mussazi strongly condemned attacks on media teams and vehicles covering the protests. It demanded immediate action against those responsible for these attacks.
Khyber Union of Journalists President Nasir Hussain told PPF that various media organizations were affected by the protests on GT Road in Peshawar.
In a press release, the Khyber Union of Journalists President Nasir Hussain and other office bearers strongly condemned the violence on media professionals during the Peshawar protest coverage.
The Khyber Union of Journalists leadership said that PTI leadership should issue directives to party workers not to misbehave with the media; otherwise, they would blackout coverage of PTI protests and activities.