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April 30, 2014

Pak journalists get threats from whom?

 
April 30, 2014

LONDON: Amnesty International has said that Pakistani journalists live under the constant threat of killings, harassment and other forms of violence from both the state and non-state actors, political parties and armed groups like the Taliban and their ideological affiliates.
In a report titled “A bullet has been chosen for you: Attacks on journalists in Pakistan”, Amnesty has documented 34 cases of journalists from various media organistaions, including from the GEO TV Network and Jang Group of Newspapers, describing how the Pakistani authorities have almost completely failed to stem human rights abuses against media workers or to bring those responsible to account.
“Pakistan’s media community is effectively under siege. Journalists, in particular those covering national issues or human rights, are targeted from all sides in a disturbing pattern of abuses carried out to silence their reporting,” said David Griffiths, Amnesty International’s Deputy Asia-Pacific Director.
“The constant threat puts journalists in an impossible position, where virtually any sensitive story leaves them at risk of violence from one side or another.”
Numerous journalists interviewed by Amnesty International complained of harassment or attacks by individuals they claimed were connected to Pakistan’s spy agencies. The report says that in Karachi, supporters of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ) have been accused of harassing or killing journalists they consider critical. In Balochistan not only the Taliban, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi but also ethnic and nationalist Baloch armed groups have been held responsible for threatening and attacking journalists. Journalists in Punjab have also faced threats from the Taliban and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi-linked groups.
The report mentioned attacks on Raza Rumi, Ali Chishti, Ansar Naqvi, Hamid Mir, Abida Sheikh, Umar Cheema, Malik Mumtaz, Azaz Syed and many other journalists.
Numerous journalists

interviewed by Amnesty International complained of harassment or attacks by individuals they claimed were connected to the establishment. Colonel Zulfiqar Bhatty, an armed forces representative, told Amnesty International that members of the public can write to the Adjutant-General of the Armed Forces regarding any complaints about the ISI or other military institutions which could be investigated by a Court of Inquiry or more formal mechanisms. He said the military does receive complaints from the public but “very few from journalists.”
Amnesty said that attack on Hamid Mir was “pre-meditated and well organised”.
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) told Amnesty International that Mir had frequently contacted them about death threats he was receiving from individuals and groups over the last several years. “However, the organisation said they had not received any video or other message from Mir to the effect that specific individuals should be held responsible if he were to be killed,” said the report.
It said, “In 2011 and 2012, Mir himself told Amnesty International that he believed the ISI was trying to kill him but did not provide details about these threats. At time of writing, Amnesty International is not aware of any concrete evidence linking the ISI or other organs or personnel of the military to the attempt on his life. Others, like the Pakistani Taliban and other armed groups, cannot be ruled out either.”
The report said that in Karachi, the groups linked with Pakistan People’s Party, the Taleban and the MQM have been “implicated in controlling entire neighbourhoods through extortion rackets, killings and abductions”.
The report said: “Police accuse the Pakistani Taliban and its affiliates for the majority of these killings, but the MQM political party has also been implicated in the killing and intimidation of the police force.” The Supreme Court of Pakistan noted that as many as 92 policemen involved in operations against the MQM from 1992-1995 had themselves “disappeared”, likely as a result of revenge by party activists for abuses these officers allegedly perpetrated against MQM members during those years.
“The MQM also stands accused of seeking to undermine efforts to provide justice in cases of journalist killings implicating the party’s activists. None is starker than the killing of young Geo TV correspondent Wali Khan Babar,” it said, adding that although the Court did not hold the MQM responsible for the murder of Wali Babar, it noted that the six were known “target killers” associated with the party, “leaving serious questions as to the possible involvement of the MQM or senior members of the party in the killing of Wali Khan Babar”.
An MQM official said any member of their party found to be engaged in illegal activities would be immediately sanctioned and, or removed from the party. “It is not the stated policy of the MQM to intimidate journalists critical of us. We believe in (the right to) freedom of expression,” said senior MQM leader Mustafa Azizabadi. Azizabadi also claimed that there was a campaign to malign the MQM for abuses carried out by other actors.
The report mentioned the life threats faced by senior journalist Syed Ansar Naqvi, the Controller of News (Input) at Geo TV, on 31 January 2014 after he was targeted by the extremist group Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ) during a rally in Karachi to protest against the government of Iran. ASWJ leader Aurangzaib Farooqi whipped up hatred against Naqvi in his speech to thousands of followers which led to Naqvi being bombarded with threatening calls, text messages and threats to his life and family.
The report said: “The ASWJ has been implicated in scores of killings of political and religious group rivals. Some of their activists have been or are in the process of being prosecuted by the authorities, although like other political activists implicated in violence in Karachi, few are convicted or brought to justice in a fair trial.”
Amnesty International spoke to ASWJ’s Aurangzaib Farooqi about the speech he gave. “Due to his (Naqvi’s) improper attitude I give the statement,” Farooqi admitted. But he claimed that ASWJ was not responsible for the threats to Naqvi.
Several journalists told Amnesty International about the daily pressure they face from religious groups like the ASWJ and its affiliate Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LEJ) because of their reports on the groups attacks on the Shia Muslim community or because some journalists are considered Shia Muslims.
The report said that the Pakistani Taliban have openly issued threats to media persons.The report said that the responses to the killings of Daniel Pearl, Saleem Shahzad and Wali Khan Babar demonstrate the Pakistani authorities’ capacity to act when they choose to investigate and prosecute suspected perpetrators.

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