Journalists Detained and Harassed in Attempts to Suppress Information in Pakistan

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has condemned the detention and intimidation of journalists in Pakistan, in what appears to be a deliberate attempt to block access to information and silence journalists.

According to an IFJ affiliate, the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), five journalists - Masood Khan, Anwar Hakim, Haseen Ahmed, Zafarullah and Moammad Ibrahim, were harassed and detained by officials when travelling with a group of journalists and lawyers to the tribal region of Bajour to investigate the killing of 83 people on October 30.

“Violence and intimidation, especially by authorities, is a cowardly method of suppressing information and is a blatant attack on freedom of expression,” IFJ President Christopher Warren said.

“When will the government of Pakistan learn that a free, safe and independent media is vital to a healthy and prosperous democratic society?” Warren said.

Pakistan’s already fragile press freedoms took another blow overnight as a private Sindhi language TV channel was reportedly suspended.

According to PFUJ, the SINDH TV owner was informed by Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory (PEMRA) that the station had been shut down on orders from high officials.

The suspension is reportedly in response to footage filmed by SINDH TV journalist Pervaiz Narejo, of the murder of a police officer which allegedly implicates a former MNA, close to the ruling group.

As a key witness in the murder case, Narejo has received death threats, and, given current levels of violence against journalists and their families, has been forced to flee to Karachi.

The PFUJ reports, Pakistani cable channels have previously been suspended after showing coverage of police brutality, while SINDH TV itself has been threatened after running stories on Baluchistan and honour killings.

According to the PFUJ, Pakistan authorities use PEMRA to suspend private TV channels and bargain with them for more favourable coverage.

These latest attacks on freedom of speech come just days after the IFJ wrote to Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf to demand immediate action on journalists’ safety and press freedom in Pakistan.

It has been a bloody six months for journalists in Pakistan. Four journalists have been killed, four more detained and tortured by intelligence agencies, journalists’ families targeted and countless more incidents of violence and threats against journalists.

“The Pakistan government must act immediately to ensure the safety and rights of its journalists are protected, in order to support a free press and to foster an environment that values diverse and objective reporting,” Warren said.

For more information please contact IFJ Asia Pacific +61 2 9333 0919

The IFJ represents more than 500,000 journalists in over 115 countries