Sunday, January 9, 2011

PFUJ report on the eve of International Press Freedom Day

PFUJ report on the eve of International Press Freedom Day

Posted by sadiahaidarig on May 3, 2010

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PFUJ report on the eve of International Press Freedom Day Once again the journalists’ community in Pakistan, like in other parts of the globe, observed the International Press Freedom, but working conditions for them are still poor and pathetic. There is still no visible improvement in working conditions for journalists and media persons in the electronic and print media, they are still working on dismal wage structure, they have no professional liberty and growth, and there is no protection to their lives, Overall working environment is discernable. As usual the Pakistani journalists appear to be compelled to work under deep stress due to widespread unemployment, lock-outs, retrenchments, killings during their performance of professional assignments as an environment of fear and terror is not let lose by pressure groups, mostly ethnic parties, terrorists and the Taliban.

WORST YEAR Year 2009-2010 was the worst in the history of Pakistani journalism during which as many as 21 journalists lost their lives and more than 45 were wounded at the hands of terrorists and suicide bombers. An overwhelming majority of journalists had to face severe economic stress during that period. There were sporadic incidents of violence against journalists in Balochistan and some other parts of the country, no major act of ban, censorship, suppression or prejudice by the government came to light. Although there was no major act of ban, censorship, suppression or prejudice by the government, there were sporadic incidents of violence, atrocity or harassment against journalists in Balochistan, and some other parts of the country, at the hands of pressure groups or agencies. A marked increased was noted in the occurrence of incidents of torture and altercations, implication in criminal cases and hindrance in discharge of professional duties by terrorist groups and ethnic organisations. A marked increase was also noted in incidents of attacks on media persons by members of various professional organizations, especially doctors and lawyers who have traditionally been very close to the journalists as they belong to an educated class.

NECOSA & ROLE OF JUDICIARY Despite a proactive and highly inspired judiciary in Pakistan, it is yet to pay attention to problems faced by journalists, and safeguard their economic rights. On the other hand, ignoring the plight of newspapermen, implementation of the 7th Wage Award, which has already been notified in the official gazette and is a part of law itself, has been kept under suspension and the tribunal constituted for implementation of the wage award, namely, Implementation Tribunal for Newspaper Employees, constituted under the Newspaper Employees (Conditions of Service) Act 1973 (NECOSA) has been restrained from taking any coercive action against newspaper owners on their failure to implement the wage award.

ONWERS CARTEL & IMPLEMENTATION TRIBUNAL While journalists lack resources to fight cases in courts or protect their members from being illegally sacked or pressured by owners in media organizations, the owners cartel, the All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS), whose prime object is to protect economic interests of media tycoons, and which gets subscriptions from owners in millions, has filed cases in various courts, challenging the law itself, its vires, or the operation of tribunal. Under such circumstances, the Implementation Tribunal for Newspaper Employees constituted under the Newspaper Employees (Conditions of Service) Act, 1973, failed to prove effective under the circumstances. The Sindh High Court is hearing newspaper owners’ petitions for the last nine years without any judgment in any case and has held the implementation of the 7th Wage Award in abeyance, although journalists believe that justice delayed is justice denied. Due to machinations of the powerful and influential group of newspapers owners, which is known to be the mightiest pressure mafia of Pakistan, journalists are appearing in court cases although they have lost hope for justice. They have not enough resources to challenge owners’ maneuvers in courts of law with same force, although the PFUJ and the concerned UJs are doing their level best and appearing in courts regularly. The owners’ cartel, the APNS, has succeeded in thwarting and defeating pronouncements of Chief Justice of Pakistan, and succeeded in keeping the implementation of the 7th Wage Board Award in abeyance by maneuvering to get a restraint order from the Singh High Court through clever tactics. The owners’ mafia is so strong that no person or agency can dare probe, check, or inspect working conditions prevailing in media houses, as per prevailing laws. The owners’ mafia is the most privileged class of Pakistan as they enjoy exceptional and preferential concessions in terms of taxes, duties, levies and sanctions, by virtue of the media power commanded by them. As a consequence to these circumstances, the media persons are forced to work on the 14-year-old wages and fringe benefits fixed under the 6th Wage Award as on July 1, 1996, whereas there has been tremendous increase in the salaries and allowances of employees of other departments since then, but poor press workers and journalists have been deprived of these benefits. Some major newspaper groups who had earlier increased salaries of journalists under the head of ex gratia as per market dynamics on the recommendations of their editors (because most of journalists were leaving those organizations in search of better pay packages), are bent up to deduct that amount being paid under ex gratia as soon as decision of the seventh wage award is announced. They are seeking undertakings from journalists that the amount would be adjusted, and recently the Dawn Media Group adjusted an amount of Rs. 67,000 against the payment made in the salary of each worker on the head of ex gratia after a petty agreement with the Dawn Union. The management had to pay this amount as it was payable since 1994 at the rate of Rs.300 per month in view of judgment of Faisalabad Compensation Court in the case of Shamsul Islam Naz vs Dawn Group of Newspapers.

ANNUAL INCREMENTS AND PROMOTIONS DENIED On the other hand, journalists and workers in newspaper organizations are working in great stress and are being denied promotions, move-overs, and their other lawful dues by the managements. Some major organizations, including Dawn, Jang, Nawa-i-Waqt, Daily Times, have introduced contract system of hiring and have been indulging in recruitment on contract for six moths to two years or they have re-hired some senior journalists after their retirement, but are not extending any other benefits including medical, leaves, overtime, night allowance, five per cent, cost of living allowance, etc., but have mentioned their posts as “Consultant”. Although they are doing journalistic work, they are not being mentioned as editors, assistance editors etc. They are being denied medical facilities, unlike other regular employees. 600

JOURNALISTS SACKED At least 600 media workers have been sacked from various channels and newspapers during the period under review, only to save their salaries while their share of responsibilities is shifted on the remaining employees who are subjected to over-work on the same wages, because no institution in Pakistan is strong enough to curb the activities of the said mafia. A brief account of the view point of the PFUJ about the events which took place in Pakistan events relating to the media persons during the period from 2nd May 2009 to 3rd May 2010 is given below:-

JOURNALISTS KILLED Security continues to be one of the most significant challenges for journalists and media personnel throughout Pakistan, particularly in the conflict and insurgency-prone frontier regions. The data on journalists killed and wounded in the line of duty makes a grim reading. Other threats, such as physical intimidation, abduction and constant harassment remain very much present. In Pakistan’s conflict zones, rival groups seek to dictate the content and tone of news coverage. The country lost eight journalists in 2008, while 2009 has been equally grim. The murder of Musa Khankhel while he was reporting on a truce negotiated in the picturesque but turbulent Swat Valley in Pakistan’s North-West shocked the Country.

D I KHAN: On Jan 4, 2009, media workers, Tahir Awan and Mohammad Imran, were killed in a grim enactment of the “twin-blast strategy” in Dera Ismail Khan, Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa. Both had rushed to the scene of a bomb blast as police and forensic experts reached the site. In the meantime, another bomb planted there went off when enforcement officials and journalists reached there.

KHUZDAR: On April 13, 2009, Hajji Wasi Ahmed was shot and killed by snipers in Khuzdar. He was a highly respected correspondent of Daily Azad and Daily Balochistan Express. He was also president of local newspapers body.

RAWALPINDI: On Jan 25, 2009; unknown assailants gunned down Aamer Wakil, a senior journalist for Rohi TV and editor of a local daily, Awami Inqilab. A week later, his brother, Kamal Azfar, also a journalist survived an attempt on his life. In March 2009, Raja Asad Hameed of The Nation was killed by unknown assailants in Rawalpindi. SWAT: Swat has particularly been a dangerous place. On Nov 8, 2008, Qari Mohammad Shoaib, a correspondent for two Mingora-based dailies, was shot dead in the region. Security forces later admitted that he was the victim of a case of mistaken identity. Siraj-ud-Din, of The Nation, was killed in a suicide blast while covering the funeral of a slain police officer in Mingora. On Aug 30, 2008, Abdul Aziz, of the daily Azadi and Khabarkar, was killed during a security operation in a Taliban hideout in Swat, two days after he was reportedly abducted by militants. Musa Khankhel was killed in February 2009 by unknown assailants. He was killed after abduction as he was reporting peace accord in Swat. Peshawar-based Afghan journalists Janullah Hashimzada, was killed by unknown people in Jamrud area of Khyber Agency while he was on his way to Peshawar from Afghanistan in a passenger coach. Senior reporter of Express News Javed Afridi was kidnapped for ransom and remained in the captivity of kidnappers for 25 long days. The kidnappers had been demanding Rs.6 million as ransom from Khyber Union of Journalists. He, however, LEAs managed his escape good from clutches of kidnappers. Tribal Belt: Pakistan’s tribal belt is a most hazardous war zone, where reporting is being carried out at the cost of life. On 22 May 2008, Mohammad Ibrahim of Express News was gunned down in Khar in the Bajaur tribal region after he interviewed a Taliban spokesman. And in what seemed to be a clear attempt to dent professional morale among journalists, two attempts were made in January and February to destroy the Bajaur Press Club as well as Wana Press Club, Wana, in the South Waziristan Tribal Area. Journalists unpaid in

FATA: Journalists in Tribal Areas are working in extreme life threatening conditions, but except for some, a large number of them are not being paid salaries by the print media and some of the TV channels. According to local affiliates of the PFUJ, 90pc of tribal journalists are unpaid. Media groups are forcing their reporters to take bribes from administration as they are not paid salaries. The government and political administration have taken no measures for security and protection of the tribal journalists. Threats from non-state actors have increased over the years. Therefore, there is a dire need to seriously address the difficulties faced by the tribal journalists. Access to information here is impossible, which is a great problem. Journalists are not well equipped for reporting in the sensitive tribal zones which was resulting in loss of lives of journalists. Displaced journalists from Swat valley: All the media people from the restive Malakand division had to leave their homes for safer areas after the military operation was launched in Swat. The PFUJ and its affiliated KhUJ registered 240 displaced journalists from Swat Valley who were extended financial and material support with the help of government and non-government national and international bodies. Journalists in the tribal areas too got displaced due to threats from militants or military operations there. The media persons were expelled from the twin agencies of Waziristan and were branded as spies. Same was the situation in Khyber, Mohmand and Bajaur Agency. The house and office of Sahibzada Bajauddin, a Bajaur based journalists were demolished. He has been living as internally displaced person in Peshawar for the last eight months. Scores of journalists have been shifted to Peshawar and other districts from the tribal areas and are living as displaced persons. In Peshawar media outlets received many threats.

BALOCHISTAN: In strife-torn Balochistan, Abdus Samad alias Chishti Mujahid of Akhbar-i-Jehan, was killed for his critical articles on Balochistan’s independence movement and its late leader, Nawab Akbar Bugti. Khadim Hussain Sheikh of Channel Five and Khabrain, was gunned down in Hub, on Feb 10, 2008, apparently due to his reporting on smuggling in border areas. Balochistan’s depressed Press: Mediamen in Balochistan are currently confronted with threats from the government, predominantly the Frontier Corps (FC), the underground armed groups and the sectarian organizations. Fear, insecurity and uncertainty shroud Balochistan’s journalistic scene at the moment. Reporters find themselves trapped in a situation where almost every party in the conflict wants to dictate them and expect overt backing of their policies in the media by the journalists. Newspaper’s office besieged: The office of Daily Asaap, an Urdu daily in Quetta, a voice of dissent, was besieged by the Frontier Corps (FC) in August 2009. The siege lasted for two weeks. Threats intensified as a military tank was stationed outside the newspaper office. Guns were brandished over newspaper staff. Disappointed over increasing threats faced by its staff members, the newspaper finally decided to shut down. That was the end of Asaap. Journalist threatened Abid Amin is the Bureau Chief of Balochi language satellite channel, Sabz Bath Balochistan (SBB) in District Turbat. Like so many of his peers, he had been threatened not to cover the first death anniversary of three Baloch leaders— Ghulam Mohammad Baloch, Lala Munir and Sher Mohammad who were allegedly kidnapped and subsequently killed by the Frontier Corps (FC) personnel last year. Amin defied. Two weeks ago, he went on to cover the anniversary celebrations for his news channel. Soon, he was picked up allegedly by the FC as a punishment. The reporter went “missing” for three long days. Not a single “national” newspaper or news channel reported his disappearance. The reporter resurfaced after concentrated protests from the local communities. He ended up as a “gentleman” once he was released by his captors. Khuzdar press club In Khuzdar District, the local press club was threatened recently by a shadow organization, identifying itself as Baloch Defense Group. The underground outfit warned to “punish” all those journalists who venture to report activities of Baloch Nationalist Parties and the armed groups. Thus, the fresh dictation restricts reporters from filing stories about bomb blasts, target killings and political rallies of nationalist parties. The local journalists say they do not know much about command and structure of the newly formed organization. Nonetheless, they take the organization very seriously as it had recently claimed responsibility for a firing incident on a political rally in Khuzdar which killed two Baloch students and then a bomb blast at a Balochi Cultural Programme inside Government Degree College Khuzdar that killed two more students. Once the threats were reported in the media, Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) and International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) officially expressed their concern over the situation being faced by the journalists in Khuzdar. On their part, the pressmen in the district say that they deem it their professional responsibility to report every event that takes place in their district regardless of the fact who masterminds these events. It is unethical to dictate journalists what to report and what not. TV journalist loses life Malik Arif, a senior television journalist lost his life in a suicide bomb blast at Quetta’s Civil Hospital while performing his professional duty. He was covering an impending protest by sympathizers of a prominent Shia bank manager at the hospital when a suicide bomber struck. Malik died on the spot while five more television journalists sustained severe injuries in the attack. Late Malik Arif undoubtedly spent a secularly gallant journalistic stint expanding for more than 30 years. Balochistan Govt’s response Balochistan government’s response to the tragic murder of Malik Arif was disgusting. The big guns in the provincial capital simply exploited his killing as a golden opportunity to make headlines with their statements of condemnation in the local newspapers. Out of 50 ministers in the provincial cabinet, none turned up to attend the funeral of the slain journalist which indicated the provincial government’s lack of interest in fighting terrorism or admiring the media’s courageous role in bringing the truth to the masses. Quetta: The journalists’ community in Quetta has been outraged over the little amount the Chief Minister has announced as compensation for the dead journalist and the injured reporters. Criticizing the government perhaps would not help at this occasion, nor is it the biggest issue at the moment. There is a need for integration among all media organizations and groups striving for rights of journalists to cope up with the emerging challenges the journalists are facing in the wake of the war-like situation that has engulfed the whole country in its grip. Media organizations, mainly the news channels, must arrange safety training programmes for journalists to acquaint them with techniques to grapple with emergencies. Similarly, groups striving for rights of the journalists should press owners of media houses to give full insurance to their employees so that their families do not suffer too much in case of a journalist’s untimely death or injury. In the current unchanged circumstances, the days ahead seem to entail more hardships for the pressmen of Balochistan and less relief from the other side(s). All these observations reflect an abysmal state of the press freedom in Balochistan. These help us understand various dimensions of the threat journalists are facing in the volatile Balochistan province.

MIANWALI: In Mianwali, Punjab, on Nov 3, 2008, Abdul Razzak Johra, of Royal TV, is believed to have been murdered because of his reporting on drug-related crimes. DADU: On Aug 12, 2008, in Sindh, Mohammad Azeem Leghari, of Dharti TV and the daily Hulchal, was killed in Dadu in broad daylight.

THREATS BY TERRORISTS The media persons, especially those working in Balochistan, Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa and conflict areas of this province are constantly under threat of life and are forced to work without any protection from media owners and government. The terrorists did not even 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 journalists. Likewise, Geo News reporter Faheem Sidiqui was injured while his eight-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 of Kamran 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 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.

BALOCHISTAN: The PFUJ observed that in the recent past journalists working in Balochistan, including Dr. Chishti Mujahid, Hajji Wasi Ahmed and Amanullah Nichari, lost their lives while performing their professional duties, yet no notice has been taken by the government to take the killers to task. The majority populated Balochs complain that state intelligence agencies influence hiring and firing policies of several private news channels and newspapers. Most Balochistan offices of key media houses of the country do not have a single Baloch reporter as they are often discriminated against because of their alleged anti-government views. A Quetta-based Baloch Bureau Chief of a leading news channel was sacked from his job reportedly on the instructions of security forces after he interviewed the chief of Jundullah, an Iranian Sunni militant group, who is wanted by Iran and accused of hiding somewhere in Pakistan. The state apparatus got the Baloch journalist fired under the pretext that the interview undermined Pakistan-Iran relations,” the PFUJ maintained. On Sept 4, 2009, a Baloch journalist Irshad Akhtar was badly beaten up by FC personnel and his video camera was snatched by the authorities during a clash between FC personnel and women protestors in Turbat district. In Bolan district, a Baloch journalist, Rehmatullah Shaheen, correspondent of anti-government Daily Tawar, has been charged with terrorism allegation. “Terrorism charges against Rehmatullah Shaheen would give warning signals to the rest of rural correspondents across Balochistan to think twice before reporting objectively from their respective areas regardless of poor governance in the area. Unfortunately, Balochistan has a depressing history of state-sponsored victimization of rural journalists in the province. “It is also a hard fact that Rashid Azam, a Khuzdar-based journalist, working for Urdu Daily Intikhab was picked up by security services and subjected to severe torture for the odd reason of “chatting” online with an Indian citizen. The fellow was tortured to such an extent that he not only quit journalism after his release but also formally joined pro-Pervez Musharraf Pakistan Muslim League (Quaid-i-Azam).” Rehmatullah Shaheen reportedly went missing on Dec 8 while he was traveling from his office to Mach Grid Station. The journalist remained missing for one week. No one knows what actually happened to him. His family members believe that he had been put into a torture cell, tortured and forced to make confessions and show some link with Baloch armed groups. Known for his bold and factual reporting from the sensitive region of Bolan, Shaheen was produced by the local police after protest rallies were held across Balochistan by journalist bodies. Similarly, Munir Mengal, the managing director of the Baloch Voice, a TV channel, was subjected to inhuman torture for more than one year only because he was planning to launch a Balochi news channel. Likewise, Javaid Lehri, a 22-year-old young journalist from Khuzdar working with the Urdu Daily Azadi was maltreated for months together, who too quit the profession after being released by his captors. Not only this, government forced a Quetta-based newspaper Daily Asaap to close offices in August of this year while two other newspapers offices, Daily Balochistan Express and Daily Azadi, were besieged for two weeks by the law-enforcing agencies. Still worse was an assassination attempt on the life of Jan Mohammad Dashti, Editor-in-Chief of Balochi newspaper Daily Asaap. Dashti, also a Provincial Secretary and widely regarded as a highly influential figure in the province, was also forced to leave the country. Like Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa journalists in Sindh and Punjab are waiting for a government response to their sufferings, and protection to their lives. They see much difficult condition in the future if government fails to provide protection to press clubs and other media centres in the country. Moreover, government concessions to media owners and denial of due perks to journalists and non-journalists in media organisations as enshrined under the law, the Newspapers Employees (Conditions of Service) Act, would continue to deteriorate the working environment for media persons which may also hinder journalists creativity, and they may lack in skills. Moreover, their family members, and their children’s education would suffer if no serious efforts are made by the government to resolve the genuine problems of newspapermen. 2009: A crucial year for Pakistani Journalists The year 2009, too, proved to be a curial year for Pakistani media persons who were callously neglected by the media owners, viz-a-viz better wages, security of job and their life insurance, while they were increasingly targeted by the terrorists and other pressure groups in which over half a dozen journalists lost their lives. A review of the year 2009 suggested that like preceding years, from 1996 to onwards, media persons were continuously denied their lawful benefits by the media owners, including a conductive professional 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 journalists was not abolished. As there was no protection to the lives of media persons continued to work under stress, and at least 10 journalists lost their lives while at least 300 were wounded, tortured, and extended threats by government agencies in Balochistan while a dozen journalists were implicated in cases, and about 500 media persons were sacked by their employers without notices and they were denied payment of their lawful dues. In its annual report for the year 2009, highlighting “the plight of Pakistani journalists,” the leading representative body of the print and electronic media of the Pakistan, the Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), observed that in 2009 too journalists in Pakistan remained under the clutches of “media owners” and were forced to work round-the-clock without basic amenities; including provision of clean drinking water, medical facilities, life insurance, security gadgets, wash-rooms, an unbiased gender policy, while media persons were hired by their employers on contract basis to deprive them of their benefits of provident funds, gratuity, pension, and no increase was made in the wages of journalists since July 1996. The highhandedness and cruelty of the media owners can be judged from the tragic incident which took place on Dec 1, 2008 in Lahore where one Mohammad Azam, a Channel-5 employee, committed suicide owing to non-payment of his salaries by his influential employers. Although the present democratic government has not yet taken any worth mentioning action against media for preventing free coverage, some government agencies and non-state actors did not miss an opportunity of intimidating, victimizing and torturing media persons so much so that a number of media persons were killed when they refused to toe their line.

The number of such journalists is 4 in the province of the Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa (Tribal Area) and two in the province of Balochistan. Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa was one of the worst hit area of the country where terrorists groups took lives of as many as four media persons, including a suicide attack on Peshawar Press Club in which two employees of the club lost their lives besides, seven others suffered injuries.

January 2010 01-Jan: Hyderabad Dawn reporter brutally assaulted. M H Khan, the staff correspondent of Dawn in Hyderabad, was assaulted by workers of Sindh National Front near Radio Pakistan building while he was on way back to press club. He received several head injuries and his finger was fractured.

07-Jan: Journalist’s son picked up mysteriously. The son of a senior journalist Shakil Turabi was kidnapped in mysterious circumstances when he was on his way back home from college. Shakil Turabi is chief editor of SANA News Agency.

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.

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 outnumbered policemen and media persons raised anti-media slogans and used abusive language against them.

February 2010 18-Feb: Mehran TV reporter killed: Armed men shot dead a reporter of Sindhi TV channel in Gambat in district Khairpur. Ashiq Mangi who worked for Mehran TV was going to press club when he was attacked. He died on the spot.

March 2010 01-March: Closure of paper, sacking of media men: The PFUJ expressed its dismay and concern over sudden closure of the national English daily “Business Day”, Karachi, and removal of the entire staff without any notice and termed it a cruel act and classic example of lawlessness.

The PFUJ pointed out that the Business Day 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. The PFUJ regretted that the owners of the newspaper which belong to a known industrial and banking group and have strong “stakes” brought out this daily just to hoodwink professional media persons in the name of “good journalism” and better services.

10-March: High-headiness against NewsOne Team: The PFUJ withdraw its call for launching a country-wide movement following assurances by the Punjab government that they would withdraw case registered against the News-One TV channel crew, and also for holding an independent inquiry against the highhandedness of the MS of Benazir Hospital. It may be noted that News-One TV Channel team was implicated in a case of harassment, creating hindrance in the official functioning of officials. The media team made live coverage based on sentiments of hospital visitors, relatives of patents as well as patients about their views pertaining to medial facilities being provided at the hospital.

30-March: Cases against journalists in Gujranwala: Expressing concern over registration of cases against 200 media-men in Gujranwala, the PFUJ warned that if cases registered on the complaint of doctors on serious criminal charges are not withdrawn forthwith, the PFUJ would be constrained to give a call for a country-wide protest. The PFUJ expressed concern over excesses of doctors against media persons of Gujranwala and subsequently implicating them in a criminal case for bogus charges of rioting, threatening of dire consequences, misbehaving, scuffling and other charges.

The PFUJ pointed out that on March 28 night, Sajjad Dar, a journalist of a TV channel, suffered from kidney pain and was rushed to the trauma centre of District Headquarter (DHQ) Hospital Gujranwala by his colleagues. At the centre, even after an hour, none of the doctors or paramedical staff attended the journalist who was complaining of acute pain in his kidney and was virtually crying. Consequently, a colleague of Dar contacted the EDO Health Nisar Ahmad Cheema on phone and complained about the indifferent attitude of doctors. In response thereof EDO health reportedly reprimanded the doctor on duty. However, the doctor on duty instead of providing medical aid to Sajjad Dar flared up and called his fellow doctors and all of them thrashed the attendants and other colleagues present at the Trauma Center.

April 2010 02-April: Concern over Presidential Award: Expressing surprise over government decision to confer Presidential Award upon Late Gen. (Retd) Mujeeb ur Rehman, the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) termed it a move to insult media persons on the one hand and a black spot on the face of present democratic government of the PPP.

03-April: Concern over cases against journalists: The PFUJ sharply reacted over registration of a case at the Faisal Town Lahore Police Station 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. The PFUJ pointed out that the police implicated media persons on criminal charges of rioting, blocking road, creating disturbance, ransacking and damaging government property, manhandling and torturing doctors. In the FIR among the accused, most of the journalists are office-bearers of the Punjab Union of Journalists (PUJ) and the Lahore Press Club while a number of journalists belong to various newspapers, electronic media, including photographers and cameramen who were also implicated in the case.

06-April: The PFUJ slams Karachi Rangers for detaining journalist: Expressing anguish over detention and manhandling of a journalist, Syed Hasan Ali Shah, who is also a member of the Karachi Union of Journalists by the rangers near Haroon House, the PFUJ demanded immediate action against the ranger officials who misbehaved with the journalist. 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: The PFUJ expressed concern over the constant threats to Khuzdar Press Club by a militant group incensed by coverage given to nationalist parties and groups in Balochistan and demanded of the Federal Government as well Chief Minister, Balochistan, to ensure safety of working journalists of Khuzdar and across Balochistan. Reports reaching the PFUJ suggested that “the threat has come from “Baloch Musallah Difah Tanzeem” (BMDT), an outfit which also publicly claimed responsibility for a hand-grenade attack a month ago at the Balochistan University of Engineering and Technology during an event celebrating Baloch Culture.”

17 April: Cameraman killed in bomb blast in Quetta: In a blast in Quetta Civil Hospital, Samaa TV Cameraman Malik Arif lost his life while five 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.”

18-April: Journalist killed in Kohat blast: Expressing grave concern over killing of two media persons in a short span of 24 hours, the PFUJ urged the government to come to the rescue of journalists as situation is getting worse in Balochistan and Pakhtoonkhwa, and it is getting more difficult for media persons to perform their duties without fear. Journalists and media persons’ lives are at stake, and time has come that all stake holders and the government take measures for safety and protection of media persons. Referring to incident at Kohat in Khyber Pukhtoonkhaw (formerly NWFP), the PFUJ said that Azmat Ali, a Correspondent of Samaa for Orakzai Agency, was among those killed in the incident, and according to initial reports, blasts took place near the IDP camp Kacha Paka. Azamat Ali Bangash, son of Ali Sarwar Bangash, lost life while preparing package of the displaced persons. Belonging to Ibrahim Zahi, Hongo District, Azmat had joined the profession in 1998, and served in various newspapers. He also served in 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 Aliana (3), Alyia (1) and a widow.

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