PPF expresses alarm over continued acts of violence against media professionals as the country faces protests following Imran Khan’s arrest.
Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF) expressed alarm over the continued acts of violence against media professionals as protests were held around the country by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf party (PTI) following the arrest of former prime minister Imran Khan. Violence against the media at the hands of both protesters and police has been documented in parts of the country, making clear the risk that journalists on the ground face.
The media is required to cover such developments but are instead being made the target of the anger of protestors. PPF strongly condemns acts of violence against media professionals and repeats calls for the political party leadership to ensure that party workers do not make the media the subject of their attacks. It is incumbent upon party leadership to ensure that media covering protests are able to do so safely.
It is also necessary for police and other responsible authorities to allow journalists to do their work without intimidation and violence. The police must exercise restraint and protect the safety of the media rather than bring it under attack.
In an alert issued on May 11, PPF documented multiple instances where media professionals came under attack during protests in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s capital Peshawar. In the provincial capital, DSNG vans for multiple channels had come under attack, Dawn News TV correspondent Arif Hayat was hurt, and the police officials had arrested Mashal Radio correspondent Azmat Khan in a misunderstanding. On May 10, the building of the state-owned Radio Pakistan in Peshawar was attacked.
Similar violence against the media have also been documented in other parts of the country.
In Quetta in the Balochistan province, journalists — GNN News reporter Faizan Ali and cameraperson Shehbaz Ali, AFP reporter, and Quetta Press Club General Secretary Banaras Khan, GTV News reporter Fateh Bugti and daily Intekhab cameraperson Alexander Kalwi — were manhandled by police covering the PTI protests on May 9.
Speaking to PPF, Faizan Ali said they were covering the protests on Airport Road Quetta when police stopped the camera persons from making footage of the clashes between police and protestors.
“When we (the reporters) went to see what was happening, the police charged us with batons. We all sustained minor injuries”, Ali shared.
GTV News cameraperson Shehbaz Ali added that police officials were stopping him from making footage of the clashes and beat him when the journalists resisted the move. He sustained minor injuries.
Quetta Press Club General Secretary Banaras Khan told PPF that, along with his colleagues, he was covering a protest when the police intervened and started physically assaulting the camerapersons to stop them from filming.
“In the same situation, the police also charged at me and the other reporters with batons. I sustained a severe beating on my back, and I am still experiencing pain”, Khan lamented.
He added that he had all the security equipment provided by his organization, AFP. Still, other journalists covering the protests who were not wearing protection glasses faced irritation and redness in their eyes.
Daily Intekhab cameraperson Alexander Kalwin shared a similar ordeal as that of the other journalists. Kalwin said other journalists and himself were standing away from the spot when the police saw that we were filming footage with the camera.
“They grabbed us and hit me with the butt of a gun and beat me with a stick on my head, and I lost consciousness,” he said, adding: “I have suffered injuries, and the doctor has advised me to rest for ten days. My camera has also been broken.”
Quetta Press Club and Balochistan Union of Journalists strongly condemned the incidents and staged a protest.
Quetta Press Club President Khalid Rind said that they had boycotted the coverage of the police and have also recorded a protest with the PTI leadership. The boycott will continue until the police officials apologize, Rind stated.
In the Punjab province, a Geo News reporter Dua Mirza shared that police used tear gas to disperse protestors in Lahore on May 10. Mirza told PPF that many journalists were reporting from the site. However, no major injuries were reported from the province.
In another incident, a case was registered against City 49 correspondent Rafiq Sajid in Allahabad district of Kasur in Punjab, where police registered a case against 50 PTI workers. As per Sajid, he had gone to cover the protests when the police registered a case against him, mistaking him for a PTI worker.
In the country’s capital Islamabad, Voice of America correspondent Salman Idris Qazi was manhandled by police outside the Islamabad High Court (IHC) on May 9. Speaking to PPF, Qazi said he was busy with coverage when police started a baton charge. Qazi said, along with other journalists as well as a colleague Ali Zaidi, was manhandled.
In Rawalpindi, Express News producer and social activist Syed Mustajab Hassan and Suno TV producer Muhammad Faizan Ashraf were manhandled by police when they started to make videos of police raiding the residence of a PTI leader Raja Nasir Mehfooz on the night of May 9, adding that they wanted to capture the incident. Speaking to PPF, Hassan said that police had attacked them in a misunderstanding and thought that they were PTI party workers.
“They did not just physically torture us but also mentally abused us. What was our fault? We were just making videos,” he said, adding that this was the first time he had experienced such brutality from police officials.
“We showed them our office cards, but they did not stop beating us,” Hassan shared with PPF, adding that they had informed the National Press Club and the relevant journalists’ union and organization and would also register a first information report (FIR).
Suno TV producer Ashraf added: “I was mentally disturbed and traumatized after this incident. We are reputable journalists, and those police officials knew that we were journalists, but they kept on beating us.”
In a statement, Islamabad National Press Club President Anwar Raza, General Secretary Khalil Raja, and Finance Secretary Nayyar Ali condemned the incident. Raza said that the approach of the police was unacceptable.
The Rawalpindi Islamabad Union of Journalists (RIUJ) President Abid Abbas, General Secretary Tariq Ali, Finance Secretary Kashaan Akmal Gul and other members also strongly condemned the incident that the actions of the Rawalpindi police could not be tolerated under any circumstance.
The Islamabad National Press Club and the RIUJ demanded that the inspector general of police and Rawalpindi regional police officer take action against the police officers involved in the incident.