IFJ–PFUJ Mission for Press Freedom and Journalist Safety in Pakistan

A coalition of international and local press freedom and media groups, led by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its affiliate in Pakistan, the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), is conducting an urgent mission to Pakistan, in response to the deteriorating press freedom situation and worsening safety environment.

The IFJ-PFUJ Mission for Press Freedom and Journalist Safety will be in Pakistan from February 21 to February 25, 2007.

Members of the mission spent February 22 in Lahore meeting with local journalists, office-bearers of the Lahore Press Club, Punjab Union of Journalists, and meeting with the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), including HRCP director I.A.Rehman and HRCP chairperson Asma Jehangir, who is also United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief of the Commission on Human Rights.

The mission traveled to Peshawar and will travel to Islamabad tomorrow to meet with journalists and their family members, and will seek to meet with government representatives, police and the military.

The mission members met with the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) police chief this morning in Peshawar, and will be meeting with the NWFP information minister later today, February 23.  

The will also meet in Peshawar on February 23 with NWFP senior editors and journalists who have been under attack in NWFP.

The mission is also seeking a meeting with Pakistan’s Prime Minister to discuss the mission’s findings and push for action to be taken by the government.

Members of the mission include Christopher Warren, president of the IFJ, who is joining the mission in Islamabad; Bharat Bushan, editor of The Telegraph in Delhi; Chris Morley, president of the National Union of Journalists, UK and Ireland; Iqbal Khattak, bureau chief of The Daily Times and Pakistan’s representative to Reporters Sans Frontiers; Sunanda Deshapriya of the Free Media Movement in Sri Lanka; and Pervez Shoukat, president of PFUJ.

The mission has been arranged in response to continued media oppression and increasing numbers of attacks on journalists and their families. In the past eight months, four journalists, as well as two child brothers of media workers, have been murdered.

“We need to persuade the government of Pakistan to act to stop these attacks on journalists and press freedom; we will appeal directly to government officials to do more to protect journalists and ensure a free and safe media environment,” IFJ president Christopher Warren said.

A roundtable conference of the mission members, local journalists (including those that have suffered from attacks and press freedom abuses), editors, rights activists, lawyers and politicians will take place in Islamabad on February 24, and the mission will conclude with a press conference in Islamabad on February 25.

Additional information on the issues the mission will address in Pakistan can be found in the capsule report attached.

Capsule Report – Pakistan

Journalists murdered

On November 1, 2006, Mohammad Ismail, a senior journalist and bureau chief of Pakistan Press International (PPI), was brutally murdered when attacked by unknown assailants in Islamabad.

Maqbool Hussain Sail, a correspondent with the news agency On-Line, died after being shot by unidentified attackers on September 15, 2006. Sail was reportedly on his way to the house of the local leader of the opposition party, the Pakistan People Party, when he was shot.  

Hayatullah Khan was found murdered on June 16, 2006, six months after his abduction. He was allegedly abducted near the tribal area of North Waziristan, after reporting on an explosion that killed senior Al Qaeda member, Maza Rabia.

Munir Ahmed Sangi, a cameraman for the Sindhi-language Kawaish Television Network (KTN) was shot on May 29, 2006. Sangi had been covering a story on a gunfight between members of the Unar and Abro tribes in the town of Larkana, in Pakistan’s Sindh district when he was shot.

Targeting of family members

The IFJ reported the murder of the child brother of slain journalist Hayatullah Khan on September 26, 2006. Bashir Khan’s murder was allegedly a message to his family, who had been active in trying to expose Hayatullah Khan’s killers.

On August 31, 2006, the IFJ reported the murder of BBC correspondent Dilawar Wazir’s teenage brother in South Waziristan, a tribal-ruled region along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. According to the PFUJ, the murder of 16-year-old Taimur Khan may have been a message to Dilawar who had been under threat for his reporting for the past two years.

Kidnappings and torture

Suhail Qalandar, a news editor with the Daily Express in Peshawar, disappeared on January 2, 2007. Local reports suggest he may have been targeted for political reasons. Demonstrations and rallies were held across Pakistan on February 19, 2007, in protest of his kidnapping, as well as of the government’s lax response. Qalandar was released two-days later on February 21, after the protest rallies were held on the PFUJ call.

Dilawar Khan Wazir, a BBC Urdu-language reporter and a journalist for the daily publication Dawn, was reported missing on November 20, 2006 and was released one day later. Wazir, who could not identify his abductors, was blindfolded, harassed, physically attacked and questioned about his sources during the ordeal. Wazir’s abduction comes after a string of recent attacks and threats targeting Wazir, his family and his colleagues.

Kawish journalist Mehruddin Marri, who was abducted in Thatta on June 27, 2006, was released on October 24 after four months of torture. He was interrogated, beaten and suffered electric shocks and other forms of torture, in an attempt to make him confess ties with the Baluch nationalist movement.

Saeed Sarbazi, joint secretary of the Karachi Press Club, senior sub-editor of daily Business Recorder and a member of the All Pakistan Newspapers Employees Confederation’s National Executive Committee, was abducted and tortured on September 20, 2006. He was released on September 22.

On June 26, 2006 two missing journalists were officially arrested in Pakistan and released on bail after their abduction earlier in the year. Mukesh Rupeta, a Geo News correspondent, and Sanjay Kumar, a freelance cameraman, reportedly disappeared on March 6. According to a spokesperson from Geo News, Pakistani authorities reported that the two were detained for videoing the Jacobabad air-base in Sindh. There were concerns for the poor health of both journalists, raising serious questions about their treatment.

Attacks, threats and abuse

Reports on December 15, 2006 suggested that a new press regulatory body that may be established in Pakistan is a replication of an infamous “black law” dating back to the 1960s. According to the PFUJ, a report appeared in a leading Urdu language daily newspaper stating the government was about to instate a new body called the Press and Publication Regulatory Authority (PAPRA).  The PAPRA was likely to be a mirror of the Press and Publication Ordinance from the 1960s, tagged a “black law”.

On November 10, 2006 several journalists were detained and intimidated, in what appeared to be a deliberate attempt to block access to information and silence journalists. Five journalists - Masood Khan, Anwar Hakim, Haseen Ahmed, Zafarullah and Moammad Ibrahim, were harassed and detained by officials when travelling to the tribal region of Bajour to investigate the killing of 83 people on October 30.

On September 17, 2006 it was reported that police attacked journalists at a public meeting of a religious organisation in Lahore. According to the PFUJ, Wadood Mushtaq, from ARYONE World, received serious wounds on his face and jaw, ATV's Malik Zahid endured internal injuries and Mohannad Nazi received a fractured arm.

The senior journalist and union leader Cr. Shamsi was brutally attacked by the security guards of the Federal Minister for Labour in Islamabad on September 13, 2006, after Shamsi demanded the implementation of the Seventh Wage Award.

The Peshawar Press Club was attacked by activists of the Pakistan Muslim League on June 29, 2006, injuring newsmen and staff members of the club. Additionally, three journalists, including Khalil Afredi of the Daily Khabrian, Sudhi Afredi of the Daily Frontier Post and Abu Zar Afredi of the Daily Express were detained without charge for 24 hours for interviewing wanted head cleric of Lashkar-e-Islami, Mangal Afredi. Reports also revealed the group Lashkar-e-Islami threatened Qazi Nasrullah of the Daily Mashriq and Qazi Rauf of the Daily Express for reporting in favour of government policies.

On June 14, 2006 about 50 individuals reportedly attacked six media workers at the Thari Mirwah Press Club, punching, kicking and beating the press with sticks.  The attack was allegedly in response to a story on contractors’ use of unsatisfactory material in the construction of irrigation watercourses.

Eight media workers were injured in a bomb attack while covering a religious gathering to celebrate the anniversary of the birth of the Prophet Mohammad in Karachi on April 11, 2006. The attack killed 57 people and seriously injured close to 100 others.

On December 23, 2005, a group of armed men threw a petrol bomb into the offices of the Sukkur edition of the Sindhi-language daily newspaper Khabroon. The assailants are believed to be Sindhi nationalists. Prior to the attack, the entire staff of Khabroon had resigned over what they termed the “misuse” of public money by the Federal Ministry of Information who had issued advertisements in favour of the controversial Kalabagh Dam.

Journalists’ economic conditions

On January 8, 2007 the IFJ renewed calls for implementation of the Seventh Wage Award in Pakistan and pressed the government to address the working conditions that journalists face.

On September 15 2006, Protest Sit-Ins for wage justice for Pakistani journalists were hosted by the PFUJ. The protests took place outside the Governor's House in Lahore, Karachi, Peshawar and Quetta. The present economic situation for media workers in Pakistan continues to deteriorate, with little job stability or support from employers, coupled with low wages.

Pakistan newspaper owners are bound to pay the wages set out by the Seventh Wage Board decision, which handed down minimum job conditions and wages on October 8, 2001 and was back-dated to 2000. However, these wages are still not being paid, and the government of Pakistan has done nothing to improve the economic conditions of journalists.

On October 4, 2005, journalists around the world united in a global day of action to protest the continued exploitation of Pakistani journalists by newspaper employers that has seen thousands of journalists suffer. The IFJ launched the global day of action on the anniversary of the Seventh Wage Award decision. Many Pakistani journalists work two or even three jobs to make ends meet and others have to work under daily wages, without the security of a permanent position or offer of appointment.

October 8, 2005 – South Asia Earthquake

The South Asia earthquake killed more than 54,000 people, mostly in Pakistani-controlled areas of the disputed Kashmir region. Approximately 50 journalists based in Balakot, Muzzafarabad, Karachi and Islamabad were identified as killed, missing, injured or directly affected by the earthquake, through the loss of family members, their homes or in many cases both. Sardar Hanif of daily Jang, Abdul Hafeez, the editor of Juraat, and Javed Iqbal Butt, a photographer for daily Jinnah all lost their lives as a result of the earthquake. A further five journalists were reported missing and over twenty journalists sustained injuries.

For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0919

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