Pakistan: Senior journalist killed amid rising attacks on media workers

Attacks against Pakistani media workers continue to escalate, with senior journalist, Zia-Ur-Rehman Farooqi fatally attacked by ‘land-grabbers’ in the Punjab province, and veteran journalist Khawar Mughal tortured by members of the Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf (PTI) political party at a public meeting in Lahore. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its Pakistan affiliate, the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), condemn the attacks and urge the newly formed Pakistani government to apprehend the perpetrators and implement security mechanisms to better protect journalists in Pakistan.

Supporters of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party of former Prime Minister Imran Khan, listen to speech by the party leader during a public rally in Abbottabad on May 8, 2022. Credit: AFP

According to the First Information Report (FIR) filed on March 24 at Kuhna Police Station Khanewal, several assailants stopped and threatened a car carrying media reporters, including Zia-Ur-Rehman Farooqi, a correspondent for 7 News in the Khanewal district of Punjab.

Armed individuals opened fire on the journalists, hitting Zia-Ur-Rehman in the head. The other journalists in the car managed to escape unharmed, while the assailants fled the scene. Zia-Ur-Rehman was brought to the District Head Quarter Hospital in Khanewal, before being shifted to Nishtar Hospital Multan for further treatment. The journalist died of his injuries on April 28.

Zia-Ur-Rehman was allegedly attacked for his critical reporting of land grabbing schemes in the area, with the FIR lodged under Section 7 of Pakistan’s Anti-Terrorism Act and the country’s penal code.

In another incident, renowned journalist Khawar Mughal, of 92 News, was tortured during a public gathering in Lahore by members of the PTI political party. An FIR was lodged at Lari Addah Lahore police station against Mughal’s assailants, who tortured him before stealing his media firm logo and breaking his microphone and camera.

At PTI public events in Islamabad and Karachi, journalists were tortured and female journalists, including Zamzam Saeed of Samaa TV, were the subject of targeted harassment.

Gharida Farooqi, a distinguished journalist and anchorperson, was harassed by PTI members on social media and through online assaults, cyberbullying, character assassination, and threats of death and rape.

"I've reported to the FIA regarding rude, harassing, disparaging banners against me held at Lahore Public meeting and put up on social media," Farooqi told the IFJ. “From now on, there will be no tolerance. Anyone who spreads false information about me will now be reported to the FIA. I expect the FIA to take speedy action against all of the perpetrators."

The PFUJ strongly condemned the armed attack on journalist Zia-Ur-Rehman Farooqi and asked that Punjab Police arrest and detain the offenders. Rana Muhammad Azeem, PFUJ Secretary General, demanded the perpetrators be arrested, or else a nationwide demonstration would be called.

The IFJ’s South Asia Press Freedom Report 2021-2022 recorded at least 42 media rights violations in Pakistan alone, including six killings and nine arrests.

The IFJ said: “Pakistan’s government must take effective measures to safeguard the safety and security of journalists so that they may carry out their professional duties without fear. The IFJ urges the Pakistani authorities to protect journalists in the country and to fulfill their international duties under the Pakistani Constitution regarding media and press freedom.”

For further information contact IFJ Asia - Pacific on ifj@ifj-asia.org

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 140 countries

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