Nine Threat Cases Against Journalists Reported

FN Threat Data Analysis – September 2023

Nine threat cases, including harm, legal action, attack on home and fine and displacement, against journalists in Pakistan were monitored and documented during September 2023.

The documentation of these cases is undertaken under Pakistan Press Club Safety Hubs Network programme, an award-winning civil liberty organisation Freedom Network is managing since 2016.

Award-winning media watchdog organization is manning eight safety hubs across Pakistan to monitor and document these violations and assist journalists at risks.

THREAT TO HARM: Jawda Hamdani, senior broadcaster working for London-based ‘Afghanistan International’ and ‘Iran International’ channel providing Persian and Pashto-language coverage about Iran and Afghanistan, and his two cameramen – Niaz Hussain and Muhammad Irfan Jamil – were warned of imminent danger after Pakistani intelligence “intercepted” calls.

it was not clear where ‘threats’ originated from nor any group publicly claimed any responsibility.

On 15 September2023, Hamdani received the first call at 9:46 pm from a person who introduced himself as “a Special Branch” person and conveyed him that he had a serious security threat. 

At 10:04pm, he received the second call, this time from the Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) official and conveyed the same threat. At 10:41pm, a third call was received and the caller repeated the same threat asking the journalist to take precautions.

On 22 September2023, at 12:23pm he was contacted by SSP Afridi from the CTD and he once again reiterated the threat alert and advised him to be vigilant about his and other fellow colleagues’ security. 

Hamdani told Freedom Network that after these calls he closed the office for security reasons and told the head office in London, which contacted the Pakistan High Commission to take up the issue.

“The office has been temporarily closed and am going through immense psychological pressure due to this situation. The matter has been communicated to Islamabad Police, Counterterrorism Department and Ministry of interior through a letter,” he said.

Freedom Network provided technical assistance to cope with the situation and the journalist is following these instructions.

Both ‘Iran International’ and ‘Afghanistan International’ are known for strong anti-Tehran and anti-Kabul editorial policies and ‘Iran International’ London office also received threats and the office was closed for months.

LATE ARSHAD SHARIF CASE SHELVED: A judicial magistrate in Islamabad shelved the murder case of journalist Arshad Sharif on 21 September 2023 since no prosecution witness attended the trial proceedings so far despite the judge ordering witnesses to record their statements, Dawn newspaper reported.

Late Arshad Sharif was found killed in Kenya on 23 October 2022 after he left Pakistan for security reason as authorities registered a number of cases against him for his corruption stories targeting mainly anti-Imran Khan politicians.

The government formed Joint Investigation Teams to probe his murder in Kenya and the Supreme Court also took notice of his murder but his murder still remains a mystery with facts unclear who and why they killed the journalist. 

MISSING YOUTUBER RETURNS HOME: Missing YouTuber Imran Riaz Khan – who had been missing for more than four months –returned home ‘safely’ on 25 September 2023. He went missing on 11 May 2023 after he was offloaded from a plane in Sialkot.

The journalists who met the YouTuber told Freedom Network that the missing journalist lost some 20 kilograms of weight and would need months to recover from psychological stress he underwent during his captivity.

LEGAL ACTION: ABN News channel Islamabad bureau chief Khalid Jamil was picked up from his home in Islamabad. On 21 September 2023 after his posts on social media platform prompted Federal Investigation Agency to register a case against him under controversial PECA law.

He was presented the next day before a court which remanded him into FIA custody for two days.

After the two days remand, the court sent him to Adiala Jail on judicial remand. Islamabad Court granted bail and the journalist is released on 28th September 2023.

Click below link to read August 2023 Threat Data Analysis Report

ATTACK ON HOME: Unknown men tried to break into the home of Lahore Press Club president Azam Chaudhry on 16 September 2023, the journalist told Freedom Network.

He said that evening a group of four unidentified individuals arrived at his Lahore home approaching his son and asking about the journalist’s whereabouts. Azam was not at home at that time.

The intruders allegedly assaulted Chaudhry’s son and attempted to break into the residence. neighbors gathered outside his home and the attackers fled the scene.

The journalist filed a police report concerning the incident and he suspects the attack was in relation to articles he had published exposing the alleged criminal seizure of land.

FINES: Young journalist Meraj Khalid from South Waziristan, working for Pashto One news channel, posted 25 September 2023 on his social media platform requesting local administration to stop a tribal lashkar to not demolish houses of the poor people.

The lashkar got angered by his post and tribal chieftains ordered demolition of his home and imposed a fine of Rs.500,000 for challenging the lashkar’s writ.

Freedom Network launched an online campaign against the lashkar’s self-rule joining tribal journalists calling on Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government to take notice of this incident. KP caretaker Chief Minister Azam Khan was quoted as asking senior government officials to stop the journalist’s house from demolished.

Under pressure, the lashkar took back its earlier ordered allowing the journalist family to return home. 

TV JOURNALIST BEATEN: Reporter Rustam Indhar of a private Sindhi television channel was held hostage on 21 September 2023 and subjected to severe torture by a group of villagers when he was covering a story about theft of electricity in Mohammad Thaheem village in Sukkur district.

Threats, Attacks, and Harassment against Various Types of Media:

Four TV and five digital journalists received these threats during September 2023.

Threat Actors Attacking and Harassing Journalists and Media:

Three state actor, three non-state, one local jirga and two unknown threat actors were believed involved in these threats these journalists faced.

Title photo caption: Missing journalist Imriaz Riaz (L) is greeted home following his freedom from four-month-long captivity.

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