The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today issued letters to Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, and opposition leaders Imran Khan, of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Dr Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri, of Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT), condemning their roles in the recent violent attack on journalists and media houses; and urging for immediate action to stem violence being directed at the media during political rallies in Pakistan.
The IFJ has also called for apologies from the Pakistani politicians and government after an horrific week of media-targeted violence. In ongoing demonstrations organized by PTI and PAT against the government, the IFJ has also noted that both the state and the opposition directly targeted journalists and media workers in a concerning series of retaliations against media workers who were attempting to report on the protests.
Pakistan’s police forces directly attacked the media including journalists and staff from ARY News, News One, AbbTakk News, Dunya TV, Dawan News and JAAG TV at one of the demonstrations on August 30.
Several media workers were injured during the police onslaught. Police were also engaged in manhandling journalists, pulling out camera operators and other media workers from DSNG vans and beating them with batons. Police also smashed cameras and DSNG vans of several channels as well as journalists’ vehicles.
In his letter to Nawaz Sharif, IFJ President, Jim Boumelha, said the aggressive behaviour of security forces was “totally unacceptable” and “grossly violated the media’s rights to report and the citizens’ right of information, as expressed explicitly in Pakistan’s constitution”.
Security forces also failed to intervene for the safety of journalists on a number of occasions when the demonstrations showed intolerance towards the media, Mr Boumelha said.
The IFJ has called the leaders of PTI and PAT to account saying: “At the time, when they have to bear the attacks from unknown groups, it is extremely worrying that even responsible political parties and the state’s security agencies assault media and journalists”.
On September 1, over 800 PTI and PAT protesters stormed the PTV building in the early afternoon, holding a number of staff hostage and forcing management to shut down the transmission of PTV News and PTV World. They also stole weapons from security guards manning the building and damaged a number of PTV vehicles. There have also been reports of violence and manhandling against PTV staff.
On August 30, anti-government demonstrators attacked the office of Pakistan’s leading TV channel Geo News in Islamabad. Protesters were on a march toward the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s House, when the crowd of angry demonstrators gathered outside the Geo News office, pelting it with stones. Some stick-wielding protestors reportedly also attacked the satellite van of Geo News as the staff in the building struggled to escape. No one was hurt in the incident but the building was damaged in the onslaught.
Similarly, journalists of Geo TV were forced to leave the venue of sit-in protest after he was abused and his microphone was snatched away. Journalists were among media workers who locked themselves in the Digital Satellite News Gathering (DSNG) van after PTI / PAT cadres started kicking on the van and warned to leave within minutes on August 15. On August 16 also, journalists were attacked again and forced to flee the rally venue.
Mr Boumelha said in his letters to PTI and PAT: “As political parties aspiring for democratic rule in Pakistan, your commitment to democratic values, human rights, and the freedom of expression should be unconditional and demonstrative.”
The IFJ reminds Pakistan’s leaders and opposition that democracy cannot prosper without vibrant media giving platform to pluralistic opinions.