2010: Another crucial year for Pakistani media practitioners
Islamabad, Dec 31: The year 2010 proved another deadly year for media practitioners of Pakistan who were callously neglected by media owners, viz-a-viz fair wages, job security, life insurance, training, capacity building, while they were increasingly targeted by terrorists and pressure groups.
In blasts, suicide attacks, target killing, firing etc at least 19 media related employees lost their lives which is the highest ever figure in the history of Pakistan since its creation.
Pakistani media practitioners both in the electronic as well as print had to face yet another challenging year. Apart from their job security, they had to bear the brunt of challenges relating to their life and property and security.
In its annual report for the year 2010, highlighting “the plight of Pakistani media persons,” the main representative body of the print and electronic media, the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), observed that in 2010 too media persons in Pakistan remained under clutches of “media owners” and were forced to work without basic amenities, including provision of clean drinking water, medical facilities, life insurance, security gadgets, wash-rooms, an unbiased gender policy, training for working in a hostile environment round-the-clock while media persons were employed on contract basis and deprived of benefits of provident fund, gratuity, pension, and no increase was made in their wages since July 1996.
A review of the year suggested that like preceding years, from 1996 onwards, media persons were continuously denied their legitimate benefits by the owners, including a conducive working environment, security of job, wages under a government announced wage board and an unbiased gender policy, and the contract system introduced in media organisations by the media owners for media persons was not abolished.
As there was no protection of life, media persons continued to work under stress, and at least 16 media related employees lost their lives while at least 327 were wounded, tortured, and extended threats by government agencies in Baluchistan. Over 238 media persons were implicated in cases, and about 850 media persons were sacked by their employers without notices and they were denied payment of their lawful dues, besides there was lockouts in half a dozen newspapers.
Despite ever increasing incidents of killing, kidnapping, torture and intimidating, the media persons working in all parts of Baluchistan no remedial measures have been adopted by the concerned agencies to ensure the protection their protection which is a constitutional as well as obligatory international protocol of the government.
Although the present government has not yet taken any step against media for preventing free coverage, some government agencies, and non-state actors did not miss an opportunity of intimidating, victimising and torturing media persons so much so that a number of media persons were killed when they refused to toe their line.
It is worth mentioning that Pakistan has gained an un-enviable reputation as one of the most dangerous countries in the world for media practitioners since 9/11 and killing of media persons have become order of the day.
Many others have been and continue to be assaulted and threatened in an effort to silence reporting on matters of national and international significance.
Pakistan was the second deadliest country for media related employees in 2008, while it was ranked 152nd, out of169, in 2007 world press freedom index according to the compiled by Reporters Without Borders. Almost all the world wise journalists organisations declared Pakistan one of the most dangerous country for media practitioners.
Enjoying relatively more freedom in the history of the country, media-men are facing grave challenge of extremism and terrorism from Taliban and Al-Qaeda. Even security forces and intelligence agencies of Pakistan have been involved in terrorizing, threatening and killing media persons working in areas, like war zones.
These epch-making events of press freedom are enjoyed with relatively bigger threats to physical security of media practitioners working in areas seized or occupied either by militants or controlled by security forces for conducting operations against militant extremists groups in areas like Fata, Baluchistan and Swat etc.
As usual, there are always challenges with opportunities; Pakistani media is also faced with a big challenge of crafting a very pivotal role in the changing socio-political and economic scenario of Pakistan.
Media is faced with a challenge of creating a balance between Taliban fanatics, and impassioned security forces not trained enough to deal with internal security threats posed by Taliban.
Journalists working in areas where fighting between militants and security forces is taking place can fall victim to both extremists and security forces who may consider their reporting to be biased or partial to any particular party in this conflict.
Analyzing threats, harassment, torture and abuse of the media personnel in the war zones or outside in the posh cities of Pakistan, one can discern that both Taliban and security forces are equally responsible for acts of torture, harassment and killing of media practitioners. These acts of terror and barbarism against media are so widespread that almost international media organisations, including Reporters without Borders (RSF), International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), UNESCO and CPJ, have persistently expressed their over safety and security of media persons in Pakistan.
Media is continuously blamed both by Taliban and government to be biased or prejudiced towards them, resulting in acts of barbarism, and terrorism against journalist community in areas controlled by both of them.
On May 3, a unique and major Shuhada-i-Sahafat rally was organized in memory of martyrs of journalism in media history on International Press Freedom Day. The rally commenced from PFUJ Secretariat in Islamabad and culminated at Punjab's capital Lahore, highlighting sacrifices of media persons.
During the 356 km-long journey, the media persons, including correspondents, photographers, cameramen, journalists across the country assembled in front of PFUJ Secretariat on May 3 and left for Lahore in a procession led by PFUJ President Pervaiz Shaukat.
More than three dozen small processions of workers belonging to media organizations joined the main rally on GT Road. The processions joining the main rally included those of Khyber Union of Journalists, Karachi Union of Journalists, Faisalabad Union of Journalists, , Bahawalpur unions of journalists and Abbottabad, Haripur Hazara, Textila, Fateh Jang, Attock, Khizro, Murree, Kotli, Gujjar Khan, Dena, Jehlum, Chakwal, Kharian, Gujrat, Lala Musa, Wazirabad, Mandi Baha-ud-Din, Gujranwala , Sialkot , Sambrial, Narowal, Kamoki, Muridkay, Sargodha. Throughout its way from GT Road to Lahore's Ravi Toll Plaza, on at least 23 points enthusiastic members of press clubs of towns and district and tehsils welcomed the rally, chanted slogans in favor of the demands of media persons and showered rose petals.
It took almost 10 hours to reach the Ravi Intersection in Lahore from the federal capital. Hundreds of working journalists and media employees thronged the Ravi Intersection to welcome the rally. Here a big procession was organized which left for Lahore. Over 200 journalists on their motorcycles joined the rally.
Within the Lahore City, the rally was welcomed by traders, students, laborers, political parties, human rights activists, organizations who raised slogans in favor of media persons. On the entire route of the rally, banners welcoming the rally, inscribed with the demand for freedom of the press, solidarity with journalists, supporting the demands of media persons, eulogizing the sacrifices of the martyred journalists, and supporting the journalists demand for rule of law, freedom of expression, end of contract system, implementation of the 7th Wage Award, constitution of the 8thWage Board etc., were displayed.
The rally terminated at the Alhamra auditorium where a grand seminar was organized by the Punjab Union of Journalists. It was attended by representatives of political parties also.
A brief account of the viewpoint of the PFUJ about the events which took place in Pakistan relating to media persons during the year 2010 is given below:
Media persons killed
Feb 15: Unknown assailants shot dead a journalist in Quetta (Baluchistan) at Sariab Road on Feb17 as soon as he came out of his home. He was identified as Hameed Marwat. The police has registered a case. Hameed Marwat was also a TV artist.
Feb 16: Ashiq Ali Mangi, a reporter for Mehran TV channel, was murdered in Pakistan’s Sindh province. He was attacked by an unidentified gunman outside the Khairpur Press Club. It is believed that his killing may be connected to a report he had filed on friction between two local groups.
April 17: In a blast in Quetta Civil Hospital, Samaa TV Cameraman Malik Arif lost his life while 5 other journalists, Noor Elahi Bugti of Samaa TV, Salman Ashraf of Geo TV, Fareed Ahmed of Dunya TV, Khalil Ahmed of Express TV and Malik Sohail of Aaj TV were among the injured.”
April 17: Azmat Ali, a Correspondent of Samaa for Orakzai Agency was among more than 40 people killed when two blasts rocked a camp for internally displaced people in Kacha Paka of Khyber Pukhtankhawa province. Azamat Ali Bangash, son of Ali Sarwar Bangash, lost life while preparing package of the displaced persons.
Belonging to Ibrahim Zai, Hangu District, Azmat had joined profession in 1998 and served in various newspapers. He also served Express TV, Aaj TV and was presently working with APP, PTV and Samaa TV. He was 54 and leaves behind a son, Ali Hybder, 6, two daughters Aleena, 3, Alyia, 1 and a widow.
May 10: Mutilated body of Ghulam Rasool Birhamani, a reporter for the Hyderabad-based Daily Sindhu, was found in Sindh on May 10. Birhamani had disappeared on May 9 after reportedly being kidnapped by unidentified people near the village of Wahipandhi.
Birhamani’s family believes that he may have been killed for his reporting on provincial political matters.
May 29: Imran Ashfaq, 32, was gunned down by unknown persons who came to his apartment, Shahid Square, in F B Area Block 7 and shot and killed him after asking his name. Shahid was married two to three years
back and leaves behind a widow and a daughter to mourn his death. He had been working in Daily Assas Karachi for the last seven to eight years.
June 27: Faiz Mohammad Khan Sasoli President of Khuzadar Press Club and a senior journalist was killed in Balochistan on June 27. He had survived two attacks in the past 12 months. The deceased had received threats from militant Baloch Musallah Difah Tanzeem.
On July 29, A Security Guard of PBC Khuzdar (Baluchistan ) Abdul Haque was killed by unknown assailants
Om Aug. 13 A female journalist Asma Anwar of Nowshera died due to floods.
Sept 3: An Aaj TV media crew driver, Mohammad Sarwar, was killed after being shot in the head and chest in a gunfire that erupted after a suicide blast in the capital of Balochistan province. Another eight media workers – Mohammad Shahid, cameraman of Express TV, Mohammad Imran, DawnNews cameraman, Fateh Shakir, Geo cameraman, Mohammad Ijaz, Samaa cameraman, Noor Elahi Bugti, Reporter Samaa and Mustafa Tareen, Reporter Geo and some other representatives of different media houses who had been covering the rally were also injured.
On Sept 6: Cameraman Ejaz Ahmed Raisani who sustained multiple injuries as a result of an attack on a rally in Quetta on Sept 3 died.
Sept 13: Misri Khan, a senior journalists of Hangu in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province was short dead. Khan, 50, was working with theDaily Ausaf. He had owned a well-known news service in Hangu and served as President of the Hangu Union of Journalists. He was shot by unidentified gunmen at the Hangu Press Club, and died in hospital. He is survived by his wife and 11 children.
Sept 16: Mujeebur Rehman Saddiqui, senior correspondent of Daily Pakistan was shot dead by gunmen on September 16 in the Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa region, north-west Pakistan. Saddiqui, 39, was shot dead by unidentified gunmen as he was leaving a mosque after evening prayers.
Oct 16: Mehar Mohammad Akmal, a Sialkot-based reporter of a private TV channel (Punjab TV) and correspondent of daily Asas, Akmal, was brutally gunned down by nine armed motorcyclists in front of his office cum car showroom at Iman Sahib Road, Sialkot.
Nov 18: Abdul Hameed Hayatan, 25, was found with a bullet wound in the head in a village in the province of Balochistan.
Dec 5: Altaf Chandio, President of Mirpurkhas Press Club, was shot dead in the province of Sindh.
Dec 7: Two TV journalists, Abdul Wahab of Express News and Pervez Khan of Waqt TV, were among 50 killed in a suicide bomb attack in Mohmand Agency in the tribal areas.
Dec 14: Mohammad Khan Sasoli, a correspondent with Baloucistan Times and President of the Khuzdar Press Club, was shot dead in Khuzdar, Baluchistan province.
Journalists affected by floods:
The Year 2010 also witnessed unprecedented floods in Pakistan which affected a large number of journalists. The media persons were severely affected as they are already underpaid. Their salaries were not increased since July 1, 1996, and since then prices of all commodities have gone up from 400 to 600 per cent without any relief from media owners. Houses of more than 213 journalists were completely damaged in Jafferabad, Naseerabad, Makran, Skardu, Gilgit, Baltistan, Khaplu, Mehdiabad, Kalam, Swat, Peshawar, Charsadda, Nauwshera, Mehdiabad, Swabi, Bajaur, Kohat, Dera Ismail Khan, Bannu, Lakki Marwat, Malakand, Chitral, Karak, Tank, Dir, Takhtbai, Muzaffargarh, Mianwali, Layyah, Rajanpur, Dera Ghazi Khan, Bhakkar, Rahimyar Khan, Rajanpur, Jhang, Sargodha, Lodhran, Sargodha, Ghotki, Sukkur, Kashmore, Shikarpur, Larkana, Dadu, Nawabshah, Thatta, Jampur, Karpur, and Sanghar.
850 media related employees SACKED
Over 850 media practitioners were sacked from various channels and newspapers during 2010 arbitrarily and unlawfully only to save their salaries while their duties were distributed among the remaining employees subjected to over-work on the same package as there is no institution in Pakistan to check such type of highhandedness and lawlessness by the media owners. The Media persons were removed from ARY News, Aaj TV, Royal T.V. Newsone T.V. Punjab T.V. DawnNews, Geo English, Business Plus TV, Daily Times, Daily Aaj Kal, Khabiran, The National, Rhohi:
01-March English daily “Business Day”, Karachi, which started its publication almost four years ago with a claim that it would bring a revolution in the newspaper industry on the basis of quality and excellent working environment in which the entire staff would be given remuneration as per their professional capability. But the same was closed all of sudden and the entire staff was unlawfully and arbitrarily removed from service without any prior notice and payment of lawful dues.
On Nov 15 The management of Khabrain Group of Publications abruptly stoped publication of its English newspaper. "The Post", Lahore, Islamabad. The Post started its publications in 2005, and the group had hired staff offering good salaries, but now all of a sudden the management has unilaterally announced to close down its publications rendering almost 85 employees jobless.
The Nawa-i-Waqt media group has sacked more than 320 media related employees working in Waqat T.V. The Nation and Daily Nawa-i-Waqat. Some of the personnel have been told, falsely, that they have attained the age of superannuation, while the affected staff of the Waqt TV channel have been given the alibi of mounting operational losses.
THREATS BY TERRORISTS
19-Jan: Unidentified people attacked the house of a reporter of DAWNNEWS Azaz Syed in early hours and left after hurling stones at the house and damaging his car. The attackers did not cause any physical harm to any family member. Till todate no one was arrested and put to justice.
27-Jan: Lawyers ganged up against media in Lahore. In a case hearing against a lawyer Naeem Chaudhary for his alleged involvement in a case of victimization of girl servant, lawyers restricted the entry of media persons to the precincts of the court. The lawyers who out numbered policemen and media persons raised anti-media slogans and used abusive language against them.
Threats made to the family of Asad Khan Betini, Chief Reporter of the Frontier Post in the Zhob district. Representatives of the Quetta Electricity Supply Company (QESCO) allegedly threatened Betini’s family after he published a report about the electrocution of a woman.
February 27:- The Punjab government has implicated the TV Channel team in a false case of harassment, creating hindrance in the official functioning, it has exposed the true face of the government that it does not believe and also it has no respect for the right of people to know, democratic norms,
30-March: Cases against journalists in Gujranwala: Expressing concern over registration of cases against 200 media-men in Gujranwala on bogus charges of rioting, threatening of dire consequences, misbehaving, scuffling and other charges.
03-April: Faisal Town Lahore Police Station registered a criminal case against about 100 journalists on the complaint of doctors of Jinnah Hospital and added that it proves that the Punjab government and the police are plying tricks to tame media persons.
06-April Rangers in Karchi detented and manhandling, Syed Hasan Ali Shah, of DAWN near Haroon House. The journalist had watched the rangers punishing two youths with sticks and had started taking snaps from his mobile camera when all of a sudden ranger jawans got off their vehicle and snatched keys of his vehicle and ordered him to accompany them to their headquarters which is next door to Dawn offices. They detained the journalist for an hour and also ordered him to ensure that the picture he had taken would not be published in his newspaper.
10-April: Khuzdar Press Club threat was given to Khuzdar Press Club by a militant group incensed by coverage given to nationalist parties and groups in Baluchistan.
On 22 July 2010, Sarfraz Wistro, Chief Reporter of the Sindhi-language newspaper "Daily Ibrat", was beaten up by unknown persons near his residence in the city of Hyderabad, in Pakistan's southern province of Sindh.
Wistro claimed that the assailants were armed with hand clips and they hit him on the face, shoulder, arms, hands and legs.
The attackers stole Wistro's mobile phone and 12,000 rupees (approx. US$140) in cash and beat him till he lost consciousness.
On July 24, Anwar Kamal, a reporter for Geo and his driver, Nasim Ahmed, were injured when unknown assailants opened fire on their vehicle in Hyderabad, Sindh province.
Kamal and his driver were returning after covering a story in Dadu-Manchar Lake at around 11:00pm, when two persons opened fire on their vehicle in the Thandi Sarak area of Hyderabad.
Kamal told was shot on the left shoulder while another bullet hit Ahmed's hand and a third bullet struck the van. Kamal believes that he was attacked because of his journalistic activities.
On Aug. 15: Unknown miscreants fired two rockets at the premises of high-power transmitter of Radio Pakistan Khuzdar.
Gwadar Station of Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation was also attacked with hand grenades a day ealeri. However, luckily there was no loss of life as a result of grenade attack. Despite these untoward incidents the transmission of both the stations continued uninterruptedly.
On Aug. 29 A physical assault on Dunya News TV Correspondent in Sialkot Mohammad Imran was made. Hafiz Mohammad Imran was roughed up and injured by unidentified persons outside his residence on August 29 and had to be admitted to a local hospital. The attackers escaped when people started gathering at the place. Imran and his family members have been receiving death threats from unknown callers.
Newsman's abduction, torture a threat to media
On Sep. Sept 4: Umer Cheema, a senior Journalist working with English daily NEWS International, Islamabad, was picked up by some unknown men in police uniforms from Islamabad Sector I-8 when he was returning home early in the morning at Sehri time and taken to an unknown place at 45 to 50 minutes drive. He was heading towards home in his car after meeting friends. When he reached Sector I-8, a Land Cruiser blocked his way and pulled over in front of his car while a white Toyota came and parked right behind. "A few unknown men wearing uniforms of Elite Force came up to me, saying I crushed a man at Zero Point and drove off and then these men forcibly took him alongwith them,"
The kidnappers covered his face and took him to a building after a 45 to 50 minutes drive. He was held in illegal captivity for 6 hours during which he was continuously tortured and humiliated in nude. They stripped him, hanged him upside down and shaved off his head and moustaches. Till to date the accused has not been brought to justice.
On Sep. 26:- An APNA T.V. Correspondent of Jhelum, Amir Shabbir Kayani was severally tortured by one Raja Ali Asghar a close relative of the PML (N) MNA'and five other associates.
Oct. 1. The lawyers attacked media persons, including cameramen, and prevented them from discharging their professional duties. The lawyers on the call of the Lahore District Bar Association staged a demonstration against the atrocities of the police and to condemn the torture and arrest of lawyers.
A number of media persons belonging to almost all media outlets reached the spot –Aiwan-e-Adl to cover the demonstration of lawyers. The media teams were busy in their task when all of a sudden a group of lawyers allegedly without out any provocation attacked the media team on the pretext that due to their coverage their image is being ruined in the general public.
Not only this, some of the lawyers physically assaulted the media persons and also damaged the cameras, other equipment, and destroyed the footage of events covered by the cameramen. The lawyers also severely thrashed Geo Senior Reporter Ahmad Fraiz, Geo Cameraman, Hanan Younis, City-42 Channel’s Maqsood But.
On 4 Oct Frontier Corps personnel attacked the bureau office of VSH News TV, a private Balochi language TV channel in the city of Hub, in Balochistan province. They harassed the staff members and ransacked and damaged office equipment.
On Oct 6, A news team from the Express News TV channel was fired upon by unidentified men in the Orangi area of Karachi. The journalists were filming a segment for their weekly programme "Consumer Crime" about a factory that produces fake cold drinks. The news team included Huma Bukhari, the programme host, associate producer Rehan Hussain and camera operators S.N. Changaizi and Kamran Zai.
Nov 4 : Senior Journalist Ghulam Rasool of Bahwalpur was detained. Ghulam Rasool Khan had been pin-pointing embezzlement and misappropriation of public exchequer by various local departments of the Punjab government.
Farrukh Asif, a cameraman for the Express News, was brutally assaulted by police in Lahore. Asif was filming a police exercise in crowd control that was turning brutal at the city’s Liberty Market, when he was himself attacked. On the orders of Gulberg Station House Officer Ihsan Butt, more than a dozen police overpowered Asif and assaulted him publicly, snatched his camera and destroyed the footage. Asif was taken by police to the station, where he was beaten before being rescued by colleagues. He suffered fractures to his arms and severe bruises.
Pasni-based journalist Siddiq Eido and Ilyas Nazar, the copy editor of a Balochi language magazine were reportedly whisked away by unknown kidnappers in the 3rd week.
The media persons, especially those working in Balochistan, Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa and conflict zones are constantly under threat of life and are forced to work without any protection either from media owners or government agencies. The terrorists even did not spare the Peshawar Press Club which fell victim to a suicide attack, claiming lives of 4 employees of the club and injuries to 32 others, including media persons.
Likewise, Geo News reporter Faheem Sidiqui was injured while hiseight-year-old son and one of his nieces died in Karachi blast on Ashura Day suicide attack. Brother of another reporter Rajab Ali and sister ofKamran Mansoor (The News Reporter) also died in this incident.
Apart from this, three most senior journalists, and activists involved in trade union activities of the media persons who rendered valuable services for the community also lost thier lives due to heavy pressure and stress.
They include Tasawar Abbas Shah, President, Jang Employees Union, Lahore; Najeeb Ahamd, former President of the KUJ and Karachi Press Club, Suhail Qalandar, Resident Editor of Urdu Daily "Express" Peshawar, Vice President of PFUJ and former President of Peshawar Press Club.
Mr Qalanadar also remained in the captivity of terrorists for over 65 days who kidnapped him while he was going to his office.
On Dec 11: One of the founders of the PFUJ and senior-most journalist of the country, M A Zuberi, who was Editor-in-Chief of the country’s leading financial daily, the Business Recorder and patron-in-chief of Aaj TV, and was also founder of the Karachi Press Club (KPC).
IFJ Safety Round-table in Pakistan
IFJ Asia-Pacific conducted a round-table working group with the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) in Islamabad, Pakistan on July 26-27, aiming to develop locally applicable safety guidelines. The guidelines, prepared with the assistance of an IFJ expert and a security specialist, are intended to be prepared as brochures and news room posters for distribution to local media houses and personnel. The work continues on from IFJ safety training courses and research on safety and working conditions in Pakistan.
As many as 50 Journalists belonging to Baluchistan, Khyber Pukhtan Khawa and FATA area were given safety training with the collaboration of the Intermedia and IMS at Islamabad and Abbotabad.
On Oct. 20, A joint declaration for safety media persons has been issued from Peshwar duly signed by the leaders of all political parties, including senior minister Bashir Ahmad Bilaur, secretary information government of KPK Haneef Khan Orakzai representatives of the civil society, lawyers, human rights activists, parliamentary leaders in the Khyber PakhtunKhwa (KPK) Assembly,
Unfortunately, the year 2010 also failed to bring any respite for media persons. In the print media, journalists and workers continued to suffer owing to meager salaries, and hopes for implementation of the 7th wage award and constitution of the 8th wage board dashed as the democratic government as well as judiciary are yet to persuade the owners of newspapers to fulfill a legal responsibility.
One also hopes for having conducive working environment and equal opportunities for females in the media outlets.
Similarly, in the electronic media where hundreds of media persons were sacked without fulfilling legal formalities, the media practitioners hope that 2011 would bring some relief for them as they would get access to legal frame work for their jobs, service and life protection especially in the conflict zones of Khyber PakhtunKhwa and Baluchistan.
Shamsul Islam NazSecretary General
PAKISTAN FEDERAL UNION OF JOURNALISTS
Cellular +92(0)300 8665523