Forced disappearance of social media activists and bloggers subjugated most of the media coverage in both print and electronic media during the week. Five social media activists and bloggers are believed to be abducted just for using the right of expression. Owing to the sensitivity of the issue, Pakistan Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani took notice of the incident and invited Interior Minister to share the status in a special briefing to members of the upper house.
As per Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF) monitoring in both television and newspaper 54 out of 84 news items were related to Freedom of Expression category, 11 from media regulation, six related to media development; five were from media safety; three news items of ethics; one obituary news; while four news items covered miscellaneous topics.
PPF found that every week the gender of spokesperson in news items has the majority of male spokesperson. Throughout the week female spokesperson in news items were only two and male news makers were 74; while in eight news items gender of spokesperson was not mentioned.
Social media freedom under threat
The incident of disappearance of the social media activists and bloggers was covered throughout the week in TV channels and newspapers. According PPF monitoring there were 37 news items,nine pictures, two articles and one editorial on the issue during seven days. As much as six columns news coverage was published; while TV channels ran breaking news, ticker and programs on the missing activists.
The Express Tribune, The News, The Nation, Dawn, Pakistan Today, Regional Times, Business Recorder,express, Dunya, Nawa-i-Waqt, Intekhab, daily Jang, daily Amnreported the incident. There were in all above mentioned newspapers while Geo TV and Neo TV also covered the incident. The incident was given six columns space in newspapers.
Four social media activists known for their secular views had gone missing last week. Waqas Goraya and Asim Saeed disappeared on January 4 according to a cyber security NGO Bytes for all while Salman Haider vanished on January 6 and Ahmed Raza Naseer on January 9, relatives said.
Naseer, a polio patient, was allegedly seized near Nankana Sahib on January 7, his brother Tahir said. Hours after Haider was due home January 6 evening; his wife received a text message from his phone which states that he was leaving his car on the Islamabad expressway, his brother Faizan said.
Goraya was picked up on January 4 from Lahore, as was his cousin AasimSaeed, said Shahzad Ahmed, head of cyber security NGO Bytes for All, reported Dawn, The Nation, The News, Pakistan Today, daily Jang on January 9 while Geo News and Neo TV also discussed the incident in their programs.
The Nation, The News, Dawn, Pakistan Today, daily Jang on January 12 reported that a fifth social media activist Samar Abbas had gone missing from the capital Islamabad, a colleague said on January 11.
Abbas, a middle-aged IT worker and President of Civil Progressive Alliance of Pakistan, vanished under mysterious circumstances after arriving in the capital Islamabad from Karachi on January 7, according to Talib Raza, a colleague from his organization.
Several rights, political activists and civil society members staged protest demonstrations and raised their concerns over the disappearance of social media activists believed to be abducted. The protestors demanded that the authorities should take immediate action to rescue them and protect the constitutional and democratic right to freedom of expression in the country.
The News, The Express Tribune, Dawn covered the protest on January 10, 11 and 13 while different newspapers including The Nation, Regional Times, The News, Business Recorder, daily Jang, daily Amn on January 12 and 13 published pictures of protest held in different cities of the country throughout the week.
After the protests, Human Rights Watch urged government of Pakistan to immediately investigate the clear abductions of social media activists and bloggers who raised their voice for human rights and religious freedom.
Pakistan is ranked among the world’s most dangerous countries for journalists, and reporting critical of security policies is considered a major red flag, with reporters at times detained, beaten and even killed.The News, The Express Tribune, The Nation, Dawn, daily Jang on January 11 reported the event.
The Express Tribune on January 15 reported, Jibran Nasir, a rights advocate submitted an application to the chief justice of Pakistan to intervene in the ‘disappearance’ of four Pakistani bloggers and social media activists.
“Soon after their abductions various Facebook pages reported to be connected to these missing activists were either deleted or went unpublished,” reads the application.
“The disappearances have created terror among social media activists, bloggers and journalists,” the applicant says and terms them an attack on freedom of expression.
Dawn, The News, Business Recorder, daily Jang on January 14 reported that United Kingdom and United States is concerned over the abduction of Pakistani bloggers and social media activists. Deputy spokesperson of American State Department Mark C Toner, said US is taking the disappearances “very seriously” and will “continue to monitor the situation in Pakistan.”
Abduction of activists
The Express Tribune on January 11 published an editorial entitled “Abduction of activists” covered the recent incident of disappearance of social media activists. The abduction of activists has given a clear message, once again, that the doors to peaceful defiance are not only shut in this country but are too dangerous to even knock on.
Merely Punjab abductions newsworthy?
Dawn published an article on January 14, entitled “Abducting social activists”, written by Pervez Hoodbhoy (educationist and physicist). Hoodboy writes “Had last week’s kidnappings of bloggers and social media activists happened in Balochistan, it would have been a non-event. But all five abductions happened in Punjab”. He added; “abduction required complex operations, suggesting involvement of some involvement of some secret state agency.”
Another article published in The Nation on January 14, entitled “With impunity” by Afrasiab Khattak (retired senator and an analyst of regional affairs). He writes, about ten days ago, a new chapter in the history of enforced disappearance in Pakistan started, when some bloggers and social media activists started disappearing from Islamabad and different places in Punjab.
Death anniversary of Wali Khan Babar
Geo News aired detailed news on January 13 while daily Jang on January 14 reported; Karachi Press Club (KPC) arranged a condolence reference on the occasion of 6th death anniversary ofmartyred reporter Wali Khan Babar. Brother of slain reporter, Murtaza Khan Babar thanked KPC and journalist’s community and said journalist’s community have always helped him in tough times. President KPC, Siraj Ahmed appreciated his services in the field of journalism.
No other newspaper including The News and channels covered the death anniversary.
Media house attack case
The Anti Terrorism Court held the hearing of media house attack case and reserved the verdict till January 23, against Muttahida Qaumi Movement leader Gulfaraz Khattak and others, reported daily Pakistan, daily Nawa-i-Waqt on January 10 while daily Dunya on January 3.
PEMRA: Interactive training programme for Journalists
Renowned anchors, journalists and media persons discussed in detail the scope and role of Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA), the Code of Conduct 2015 and importance of self-accountability by media houses and anchorpersons. They attended the launching ceremony of a countrywide interactive training programme which PEMRA is going to hold with TV channels and media houses.
Addressing the workshop Chairman PEMRA Absar Alam said the purpose of the initiative was to have an open discussion on electronic media code of conduct 2015 and to get feedback from the relevant stakeholders on improving the regulatory function of the authority and to bridge the gap between the regulatory authority and relevant stakeholders. The News on January 10 reported the story while Geo News on January 12 aired detailed news.
PBA-CMA vow to resolve issues
In other news reported by Capital TV, Geo News, Abb Takk, ARY News, Dunya TV, Neo News aired tickers and detailed news covering Pakistan Broadcasters Association’s (PBA) meeting with Cable Media Association (CMA) which was organized to resolve the issues of cable operators.
Law journalism training
Council of Pakistan Newspaper editors and Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto University of Law signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for journalists training in legal journalism.
According to MoU, the two will hold seminars, workshops, training programs, diplomas and certificate courses. Both will cooperate in the field of research and education as well as exchange of journalists, anchors and reporters, reported TheExpress Tribune, Daily Nawa-i-Waqton January 13.
Daily Pakistan Bureau Chief and President of Mardan Press Club Haji Muhammad Shafi passed away due to heart fail. Daily Pakistan on January 15 reported the story.
Press Club Elections
Annual elections were held at Tando Jam (Hyderabad District) Press Club, Malir Press Club (Karachi), and Bulri Shah Karim Press Club, daily Express on January 9, daily Dunya on January 11 and daily Nawa-i-Waqt on January 15.
PPF monitored 25 items out of which there were eight tickers, eight detailed news, four breaking news and five programs 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 59 news items there were 40 events coverage, 11 press briefings, three opinions, three news reports, two interviews 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.