Forced disappearance of bloggers turned into news of registration of blasphemy cases and allegations on missing activists on both TV channels and newspapers during the week. However right activists in Karachi faced brush of extremist group and Police while protesting against forced disappearance of social media activists.
Electronic media watchdog Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) continued its actions against TV channels and fined various channels; while Journalists of Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) were threatened by Afghan militants group.
Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF) monitoring found 31 news items related to Freedom of Expression category, 16 from media development, seven related to media ethics; seven were from media regulation; five news items of safety; three obituary news; while 17 news items covered miscellaneous topics in both TV channels and Newspapers.
Male news makers have the majority with 71 whereas female news makers were 14 during the seven days of media coverage. In monitored 86 news stories only one story does not mentioned the gender of spokesperson.
Families searching for missing bloggers amid protests
Dawn, Pakistan Today, Business Recorder, daily Amn, daily Intekhab, daily Jang reported the event on January 20, protestors of religious group named Tehreek Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah threw stones and attacked supporters of missing Pakistani activists and demanded that police charge the missing men under a blasphemy law that carries a mandatory death sentence.
A group of rights activists from Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), National Trade Union Federation, National Students Federation and Awami Jamhoori Mahaz gathered at the Arts Council and walk towards the press club in protest against disappearance of activists and bloggers.
The family members and supporters of five missing activists and bloggers refuted blasphemy allegations and criticized what they called online propaganda.
The allegations, made online and in a complaint to police, has troubled Pakistan’s small community of social activists. The families of two of the missing men, Salman Haider and Waqas Goraya, describe them as part of a “malicious campaign”.
One of the first blasphemy allegations appeared on January 9 on the Pakistan Defence page on Facebook. The unidentified Urdu-language post displayed photos of Haider, Goraya and Aasim Saeed linking them with a Facebook group called Bhensa.
When contacted by Reuters via email, an anonymous administrator for the Pakistan Defence said the Facebook page and website were an “open source debate platform” and that comments were linked to members who “contribute anonymously”. The News, Dawn, Pakistan Today, daily Jang reported the story on January 19.
In other stories reported by The News and daily Jang on January 18, an active social media campaign to paint five disappeared Pakistani activists as blasphemers deserving punishment had spotlighted how right-wing efforts to silent liberal voices using the country’s laws have found a powerful new platform online.
The News, The Express Tribune, daily Intekhab on January 22 reported, police registered an FIR over the disappearance of Samar Abbas, the second activist disappeared from the federal capital, but there is still no news of academic Haider, who has now been missing for over 10 days, reported Dawn and daily Jang on January 17.
The family of disappeared rights activist Samar Abbas, has requested that his case should not be linked to the other campaigners who went missing earlier this month. Abbas’s family held a news conference at the Karachi Press Club on January 21 in connection with his disappearance. Abbas’s wife demanded that the authorities should recover him safely.
HRCP expressed concern over the increasing sense of insecurity among civil society activists after the disappearance of several bloggers and called for their immediate recovery.
Civil society activists last week held protest demos in different cities demanding the recovery of social media activists Haider, Goraya, Saeed and others who have disappeared over the last few days. The Nation reported on January 16.
Government denies registration of blasphemy cases on missing bloggers
Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan took notice of media reports and ongoing propaganda on social media regarding registration of criminal cases with blasphemy charges against the missing bloggers and social media activists in Islamabad police station. Minister denied criminal proceedings against the activists in this connection and said there was no truth about the registration of cases against them and such reports were absolutely non-serious and ridiculous, reported The Nation, Dawn, The Express Tribune, daily Nawa-i-Waqt on January 20.
FATA Journalists threatened by Afghan militants
Journalists in Bajaur Agency, working with different national and international media organizations received threats from different banned militant groups of Afghanistan which created fear and panic among journalist community.
A senior journalist, Irfanullah Jan who has been working with a US-based radio and a national newspaper for over 15 years said that he has continuously been receiving threatening phone calls and text messages from different banned militant groups that were using Afghanistan-based cellular network Subscriber Identity Module (SIMs).
Several other journalists in Bajaur Agency including Anwarullah Khan, Muhammad Tahir and cameraman Israruddin have also been threatened by militants owing to not highlighting the militants’ viewpoints and comments in their reporting during the last several months, The Nation on January 21 reported.
No other Karachi edition newspapers and TV channels reported the story.
Three channels fined
The Council of Complaints of PEMRA recommended Pakistan Rupees 50,000 fine on Channel 24 for its non-serious attitude towards the council.
Hearing the matter regarding the health condition, supremacy and age of the late Sindh governor justice (retd) Saeeduzzaman Siddique in the programme Khabardar on November 12, 2016, the council directed Express News to tender apology in the same programme and disposed off the matter. The hearing of a complaint of Chaudhry Arshad Ali against Dunya TV was adjourned till the final decision of the Lahore High Court, reported The News and daily Jang on January 16.
In other story reported by The News, The Nation, daily Jang on January 17, a member of the National Assembly and legislator of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazal (JUI-F) Shahida Akhtar Ali lodged a complaint with the PEMRA and urged the authority take strict action against BOL News TV for airing “false allegations” against JUI-F Chief Fazlur Rehman. Channel aired false and offensive accusations against Rehman in programme “Aisay Nahe Challay Ga” on November 21, 2016.
The authority also recommended a fine of Rs 1 million on Metro-1 TV channel for leveling unjustified allegations against Senator Saeed Ghani in a programme. The channel has also been directed to air apology with the same manner and magnitude within a period of 15 days.
Restrictions on information for media
Senior journalists, anchors, columnists and union leaders expressed serious concern over the restrictions on access to information for media in the clauses of draft Elections Bill 2017, to be tabled in Parliament on January 19.
They termed the respective clauses against Article 19 of the Constitution which identifies freedom of expression as basic right and demanded of the government to review the draft Bill while engaging media as a stakeholder before presenting it in Parliament.
These ambiguities were discussed at a meeting called by President Press Club Shakeel Anjum and briefed by Free and Fair Elections and civil society activists. The News, daily Jang on January 17 and Dawn on January 18 reported the story.
Dawn.com under cyber attack
A statement issued by dawn.com says that their online web has come under constant cyber attacks over the last two weeks. Chief Digital Strategist and Editor Dawn.com Jahanzaib Haque said, “We are working to protect our data and infrastructure against these attacks and is confident that any attempts to hack into our systems will remain unsuccessful”, reported daily Dawn on January 22.
Advertising Policy for media
Principal Information Officer of Press Information Department Islamabad Rao Tehsin Khan said that government will soon announce a new advertising policy for media under which 40 percent quota will be for print, 50 percent for electronic and 10 percent will be given to digital media. He stated this in All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS) advertising roundtable conference, reported The Nation, The News, daily Jang on January 18.
Minister of Information and Broadcasting Marriyum Aurangzeb announced increase in the rates of government advertising for newspapers. The advertising budget will be allocated separately for print media, electronic media and digital media, reported daily Jang, daily Intekhab, daily Pakistan and daily Nawa-i-Waqt on January 19.
Ensuring sanctity of holy verses
The National Assembly Standing Committee on Government Assurances has directed the Ministry of Information, Ministry of Religious Affairs and Inter-faith Harmony and Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) to plan ensuring the sanctity of the holy verses printed in newspapers.
The meeting was headed by committee Chairman Muhammad Afzal Khokhar. The committee was informed that APNS, Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors and Pakistan Broadcasters Association have agreed to publish a note on the newspapers to give due respect to the holy papers and the holy names printed in the newspapers, reported Business Recorder, The News on January 20.
Harassment case in PTV
Geo News in its programme “Aaj Shahzeb Khanzada Ke Sath” on January 20 and Express News in its programme “To the Point” on January 22 discussed women harassment incident in state owned Pakistan Television (PTV). Tanzeela Mazhar, a TV journalist and anchor at PTV was harassed by Agha Masood Shorish, Director Current Affairs – PTV News. She filed the complaint against the same.
World focus on disappearances
Dawn on January 19 published an article entitled “World focus on disappearances” written by I.A. Rehman. The government might have been surprised at some foreign governments’ expressions of concern at the enforced disappearance of five social activists/ bloggers. The writer further writes, we are told now that the police are investigating a complaint that the five bloggers have been guilty of blasphemy.
If those who picked up the five bloggers had good reason to deprive them of their right to liberty, they should have informed their families, allowed them to contact their counsel and produced them in a court of law within 24 hours, or explained the reasons for failing to do so.
The Nation on January 20 published an article written by Hafsa Khawaja with the title “Ominous signs” in which the writer highlighted the issue of disappeared human rights activists and bloggers. The space for expression and dissent appears to be increasingly shrinking.
That notable individuals like Haider, a human rights activist and professor at Fatima Jinnah University, can vanish in broad daylight from the capital, is a frightening revelation that people’s prominence and profiles can offer no protection or deterrence from the danger and threat of disappearance.
Producers and nation building
Agha Baqir (a socio-political analyst) written an article entitled “Producers and nation building”. He writes the talk shows and the columns are opinion sections of journalism, possessing a key role in opinion making of the people as well of the policy makers. Article was published in The Nation on January 21.
The talk show in general and column in particular is rapidly losing its credibility, especially in its guiding role to the state organs in their process of policy making. It has to support their constructive policies and point out drawbacks in various policies initiated or being initiated by the major organs of the state including legislature, judiciary and particularly the executive, through healthy and constructive criticism and not destructive criticism.
Press Club Elections
Annual elections were held at Naushahro Feroze Press Club and Moro (city in Naushahro Feroze District, of Sindh) Press Club, reported daily Jang on January 17 and 20, daily Dunya on January 19.
Condolence reference for Haji Muhammad Shafi
Former president of Mardan Press Club Haji Muhammad Shafi died of cardiac arrest and was laid to rest in his ancestral cemetery on January 15. He worked in the field of journalism for 30 years and several times remained president and general secretary of Mardan Press Club. He worked for several media organizations during his journalistic career, reported The Nation and The News on January 16.
Daily Pakistan on January 16 reported that a condolence reference was held at the office of daily Pakistan over the demise of Shafi.
PPF monitored 26 items out of which there were nine programs, eight breaking news, eight detailed news and one ticker related to Pakistani media that were covered in the following television channels: 92 News, Aaj News, Abb Takk, ARY News, Capital TV, Dawn News, Dunya News, Express News, Geo News, Jaag News, Neo News, News One, Samaa and TV One.
Out of 60 news items there were 38 events coverage, 10 press releases, eight press conferences, three articles and one press briefing published in English and Urdu dailies including Dawn, The News, The Nation, The Express Tribune, Business Recorder, Pakistan Today, Regional Times, Balochistan Express, daily Jang, daily Dunya, daily Express, daily Nawa-i-Waqt, daily Intikhab, daily Amn, daily Pakistan.