FN Threat Data Analysis – July 2020
A social media activist who was asking hard questions through his Facebook and Twitter accounts was shot dead in violence-hit Balochistan while critical journalist Matiullah Jan went missing for “12 hours” from Islamabad as a total of 23 violations targeting journalists and media and journalism institutions were monitored and documented during July 2020 by Pakistan Press Club Safety Hubs Network programme, award-winning civil liberty organization Freedom Network is managing since early 2016.
Islamabad-based Freedom Network is assisting journalists at risks in four different categories in partnership with seven press clubs in Karachi, Lahore, Quetta, Islamabad, Peshawar, Landikotal besides Khuzdar in Balochistan under Pakistan Press Club Safety Hub Network programme since February 2016.
Not surprisingly, Islamabad recorded the highest violations – ten out of 23 violations – and followed by Punjab (five violations) and Sindh (four violations). Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan recorded two cases each respectively.
MURDERED: On July 23, 2020, at around 5.30pm near Naharkot area in Barkhan district of Balochistan, unidentified assailants gunned down social media activist Anwar Jan Khetran for what appeared his hard questions he was posting on his social media platforms – Facebook and Twitter. DC Barkhan confirmed the murder of the activist and said the dead body was shifted to a hospital and “investigations are underway.” He was mostly writing about corruption in the development projects of Barkhan and against provincial Minister Sardar Abdul Rehman Khetran. The late activist’s brother nominated the Balochistan minister, Sardar Abdul Rehman, and his body guards in the First Information Report. The minister denies the allegation. Until 31 July 2020, the accused were not yet arrested by the Levies.
ABDUCTION: Senior journalist and social media activist Matiullah Jan was picked up by people outside a school in Islamabad on 21 July 2020 after being served contempt of court notice by the Supreme Court over his opinion on Twitter handle, his wife confirmed. He returned home 12 hours after he was left unattended near Islamabad. From his Twitter account a message was tweeted purportedly by his son saying: “Matiullah, my father, has been abducted from the heart of capital [Islamabad]. I demand he be found and the (intelligence) agencies behind it immediately be held responsible. God keep him safe.” On his YouTube channel, the journalist released a video to narrate what happened to him during the 12 hours long abduction. The journalist who is known for his hard-hitting questions said his abduction was linked to suo motto case in the Supreme Court. A CCTV footage of the school where he was abducted showed people in police uniform coming in police-like vehicle to pick him up. The Supreme Court Pakistan served 15 July 2020 a “contempt of court” notice on Matiullah Jan for his critical tweet over seven judges’ opinion in a case against fellow judge of the Supreme Court.
INJURED: On 13 July 2020 at 10am, local newspaper ‘Eagle Flight’ correspondent Ashraf Laskani was attacked by Muhammad Nasir and other unknown people in Dera Ghazi Khan district of Punjab proivnce. He received head injuries. Local police arrested Nasir while the journalist was taken to hospital for treatment where his condition was stated stable. The journalist exposed Nasir and his influential father’s tactics to trap local people. They broke into the house of journalist and attacked mother of the journalist. She was injured and had head injuries. They tried to kidnap two years old daughter of Ashraf Laskani. According to Laskani, Nasir, Latif and Ishaq tried to involve him in fake case of blasphemy which is very alarming. He said his only crime was to expose the family’s wrongdoings.
ARRSETED: Police in Kherpur district of Sindh province arrested 28 July 2020 journalist Sheeraz Shah Jeelani, who works as bureau chief of Dharti TV in Kherpur, and registered a case against him. Local journalists said when he was going to his home in his car, he was stopped by police for search purpose. They allegedly recovered “some wine bottles” from his car. The local journalists said the police brought themselves these bottles to claim they were discovered from the journalist’s car. The case was registered under section 3/4 of (PEHO) Prohibition Enforcement of Hudood Ordinance 1979, and produced him in court of civil Judge and judicial magistrate Kherpur. The Judge sent him to judicial custody of kherpur prison.
Sheeraz Shah is regularly posting stories on social media and his TV channel against police and the case “is result of personal vendetta the local police have against Shah,” the local journalist said.
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ASSAULT: On November 24, 2019, Karachi-based The News International journalist Imdad Soomro had filed ‘media under attack’ story for his newspaper. He shared the story on social media. A person Abdullah Chachar threatened him and used abusive language against him on social media and the journalist filed complaint against him with FIA cybercrime wing on 1 July 2020. His case was transferred to FIA Sukkur office. Imdad along with legal advisor Advocate Jamal Nasir went to cybercrime office in Sukkur where the accused, Abdullah Chachar, tried to attack him and also chased him in car to try to harm him. Imdad Soomro approached SSP Sukkur for police protection submitting application for legal action against the accused. Imdada was given police protection. However, FIA refused to take any action against Abdullah Chachar on harassment account. The accused is a government employee and working as a clerk in Sukkur district.
On 23 July 2020, senior journalist and Badin Press Club General Secretary Shoukat Memon and his cameraman Bagh Ali Junejo working for GNN News TV channel received thrashing at the hands of enraged mob. People from Mallah community went to a bank near Kazia Wah for borrowing a loan and suddenly a dispute arose with the bank staff that soon turned into a confrontation. Shoukat Memon and his cameraman arrived at the site to cover the incident. But the enraged mob did not spare them either. They attacked the crew and also snatched camera and mobiles from them. Police conducted raids to arrest the accused. Sensing the danger, the accused, Sagar Mallah, with his community leaders reached Press Club to settle the issue out of court and both sides agreed to resolve the issue.
ATTACKS ON HOME: Residence of journalist Anwar Shah hailing from Sadda town of Kurram tribal district in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province came under grenade attack on 07 July 2020. However, no-one was harmed in the attack, according to the family. Anwar Shah, who worked as tribal journalist in former tribal agency Kurram moved out of Pakistan after threats to his life for his journalism work. He received threats from state and non-state actors in the past. killed or hurt in the attack. A FIR was lodge in local police station Alizai against unknown accused. The case is under investigation and so far no one has been arrested. On 09 July 2020, some unknown men opened fire at home of Daily FIR editor Chaudhry Muhammad Aslam. He told Freedom Network that he ran news reports on corruption of land mafia and encroachment on state land in Bhara Koh area near Islamabad. The incident occurred at Angori Road Bhara Koh, Islamabad. Police registered a FIR and launched investigation. No arrest has so far been made.
ATTACKS ON PRESS CLUBS: On 27 July 2020, Sindh Rangers personnel barged into premises of Karachi Press Club (KPC) searching certain rooms and taking photos. The KPC governing body condemned the action terming it “a violation of the sanctity of the KPC.” In a statement, the club’s governing body said law and order and security were matters of special importance but on its basis, ‘intrusion’ into the KPC premises was a “matter of concern” for it. The KPC governing body urged the Sindh Rangers chief to take action against the personnel involved.
KPC secretary Arman Sabir told Freedom Network that the paramilitary force personnel entered the club without informing them and conducted some security rehearsal there. He said the KPC had some traditions and they would not be breached. Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) took serious notice of the KPC “raid” by the Sindh Rangers. “It’s an act which has desecrated the sanctity of the press club and cannot be tolerated,” the statement read.
On 9 July, affectees of Blue World City housing society were holding their press conference on premises of Rawalpindi Press Club, Rawalpindi. All of sudden a group of 30 to 35 persons with fire-arms and iron rods entered the club without any permission and pushing away security guards. They attacked conference hall and snatched mikes of media persons and started attacking the affectees and journalists covering the news conference. The attackers threw bricks and stone on both the affectees and the journalists. Attackers also broke screens of two DSNG vans. An application was submitted with police against the attackers. Police arrested the attackers and presented them in court where they were granted bail.
WRITTEN THREAT: Kohat-based journalist Syed Yasir Shah, who works with The News International and Geo News TV channel for the last several years, received “written threat” on Taliban letterhead sent through Pakistan Postal service on 18 July 2020 on the address of Kohat press club. In the letter, Muhammad Khurasini, spokespersons for outlawed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, accused the journalist of “writing against the mujahideen.” The journalist was asked to leave the area, otherwise they would “kill him along his children.” However, he reported case to local police and they are investigating the issue.
VERBAL THREATS: On 23 July 2020, Ramesh Kumar, reporter of Neo News TV channel in Sibi district in Balochistan province, was threatened by a contractor for reporting alleged corruption in road road construction contract. A delegation of Sibi Press Club met SHO Sibi city to seek progress in registering FIR against the contractor for threatening the journalist. The Sibi Press Club journalists protested against the police’s refusal to get the FIR registered. No FIR has so far been registered.
On 19 July 2020, 92 Newspaper correspondent Muhammad Ijaz Bhutta from Khair Pur Tamewali, district Bahawalpur of Punjab province, was threatened by station house officer (SHO) in Khair Pur Tamewali police station for his report against him. He called the journalist and verbally threatened over publishing a news report against the SHO, who was alleged to have released arrested people who were allegedly involved in robberies and selling of alcohol. As the news was published against the police official, He got infuriated and threatened the correspondent.
On 09 July 2020, Koh-e-Noor TV anchor and journalist Ahsan Zia received death threats on phone and abusive messages for the last couple of weeks from unknown people using sims issued in names of some individuals without their knowledge. One of the messages said that next year his death anniversary would be observed and in another message he was told about his movement. Unknown people have been following him for three consecutive days. They said he came in their range but somehow could not be targeted but he “must expect the worst any time.” The journalist did not accuse any specific group or individual of being involved in these threats. However, he thinks his “harsh criticism” of some state institutions and powerful elite in his programmes and writings might have turned some people his enemy. He also contributes to The News on Sunday (TNS) on assignment basis. Police registered a FIR with charges of criminal intimidation and concerned section of the Telegraph Act on 09 July 9 2020 at Qila Gujjar Singh Police station, Lahore.
In Rawalpindi Press Club attack case, the applicant journalists of the case also took plea that the attackers also gave life threat to journalists who were present there to do news coverage. Sajid Khan (Photographer of NNI news agency), Waseem Chaudhry (Cameraman of Samaa News TV), Malik Iqbal (Reporter Online News agency), Muhammad Askari (Reporter Daily Public Eye) and Raheel Qureshi (Cameraman of Dawn News channel) claimed that life threats were hurled by the mob on airing and publishing news of attack and the news coverage of Blue World City complainants.
On 13 July 2020, Roz TV anchor-person Saqib S. Qureshi aired a story on alleged corruption of Capital Development Authority’s officials, Rana Farhan, assistant director estate and Zulfiqar Junejo. The CDA chairman took action and FIA launched inquiry. On airing this corruption story, the anchor-person received threats from the accused. He aslo claimed that his office also pressurized him to stop airing such corruption stories.
CENSORSHIP: Geo News channel anchor-person Hamid Mir took to Twitter to say , after Matiullah Jan appearing in the Supreme Court of Pakistan while getting his statement recorded that some part of his program which was about abduction of Matiullah journalist Jan was censored on the direction of “non-civilian state organization.” He blamed that intelligence agencies other than civilian law enforcement agencies for being “involved” in Matiullah Jan’s abduction from Islamabad on 22 July 2020. Geo News management censored Mir’s “Capital Talk Show” part where he discussed the journalist’s abduction.
LEGAL CASES: On 15 July 2020, the Supreme Court issued a contempt of court notice to journalist Matiullah Jan over an alleged tweet against judges and judiciary. A three-member bench of the apex court headed by Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed and comprising Justice Ijazul Ahsan and Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel heard the case. The court also issued notices to the Attorney General of Pakistan and the president of Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) as amicus curiae. The court in its contempt notice stated that Matiullah Jan in a tweet on July 10 apparently used “painful words against judges and the judiciary.” He was abducted a day before to appear in the court. On 23 July Supreme Court has asked Matiullah Jan to submit his written statement.
On 16 July 2020, correspondent of 92 Newspaper Muhammad Imran was present in Fateh Pur, Layyah district of Punjab province, to cover police action against land grabbers in presence of DSP Karor Imtiaz Changwani and SHO Danish Ali. A day later, Inam-ul-Haq who was accused of illegal occupying land threatened the journalist and submitted an application against him in Fateh Pur Police Station alleging that some robbers along with the journalist entered his house had stolen expensive things worth of million rupees. The journalist said the case was aimed at “taking revenge” for the police action report he filed for his newspaper.
PEMRA In Action
Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority suspended 24 News TV channel.
Threats, Attacks & Harassment against Various Types of Media
Eleven TV, nine print and three digital media journalists faced these violations monitored and documented during July 2020.
Threat Actors Attacking and Harassing Journalists and Media
In 11 violations, land mafia and contractor and others were involved while in seven cases state actors’ alleged roles were suspected and in four violations the threat actors were unknown.
Caption: Journalist Matiullah Jan (center) is seen with fellow journalist colleagues on 21 July 2020 after his release bu his abductors 12 hours since he was abducted from outside a school in Islamabad.
Abducted Matiullah Jan Returns Home After 12 Hours
FN Threat Data Analysis – July 2020