On April 20, Gohar Wazir, president of Bannu’s National Press Club and a journalist for a privately owned Pashto television channel, was abducted and held in an unknown location for over 30 hours by unidentified assailants. Wazir reported suffering electric shocks during his illegal confinement, with the journalist suspecting that pro-government militants in the area were involved in his kidnapping.
Wazir claimed that his abductors forced him to record a video pledging to cease his criticism of the government and pro-government militants. When he initially refused to comply, he was subject to repeated electric shocks. The journalist attained medical treatment at a local hospital following his release, with police yet to register a First Information Report (FIR) against Wazir’s assailants.
In a separate incident, journalists Irfan Kalhoro, a local news reporter for Dharti, and Paryal Dayo, president of Pano Aqil Press Club, were abducted, tortured, and arrested in the Pano Aqil district of Pakistan’s Sindh province.
On the evening of April 28, Abdullah Chachar, a government employee, along with approximately 15 to 20 armed men, forcefully entered and ransacked Kalhoro’s house, torturing and detaining him. On his release, instead of acting against the perpetrators, police officers at Pano Aqil police station lodged an FIR against Kalhoro and arrested him.
Several journalists, including Paryal Dayo, protested the reporter’s arrest, after which Abdullah Chachar and armed accomplices reportedly abducted Paryal Dayo and his son torturing, robbing and sexually assaulting them.
Local police have since filed two FIRs in connection with the incident, but no arrest has been made. Rasheed a Rizvi, chairman of the Commission for the Protection of Journalists and Other Media Practitioners (CJMP), noted the abduction and torture of the two journalists and called for an expedited probe from the Sindh Home Secretary.
Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) President GM Jamali and Secretary General Rana Muhammad Azeem strongly condemned the abduction and torture of journalists across Pakistan and demanded law enforcement agencies arrest the culprits, reiterating the importance of providing security to working journalists.
According to the IFJ’s South Asia Press Freedom Report 2022-2023, 101 media rights violations were recorded over the last year in Pakistan, with 5 journalists killed. The report notes the continued deterioration of media freedom in the country, with the government in 2022 failing to provide any respite.
The IFJ said: “The IFJ urges the government of Pakistan to take immediate action to curb the rising trend of arbitrary violence towards journalists and media workers and hold all perpetrators to account. The abduction and torture of journalists is a gross violation of freedom of expression and press freedom, and appropriate measures must be taken to ensure the safety and security of all journalists, as required under Pakistani law.”