November 2013 Media Review

Attacks on journalists, curbs on online freedom and passage of Right-to-Know Bill by the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Legislative Assembly were hallmark of media safety review of November 2013.
Continued bombings at civilian places by Taliban militants, however, took the life of Geo News crime programme ‘FIR’ associate producer Salik Jaffrey. He was by accident present at the wrong place and at the wrong time when the twin bombings in Karachi claimed many precious lives.
As usual, there has been no instance to cite that the government moved promptly to respond to the situation involving attacks on the media.
As different nature of violence rages on and media appears coming under increasing attacks as both rival sides see the media taking the other’s side. The violence in Rawalpindi city of Punjab province on November 15 had seen one of the two sects attacking the media for reason it was “showing” the other side. This trend is dangerous and needs to be stemmed before it takes even an uglier shape.
Likewise, the violence in Karachi and government forces response bring far more pressure on the media which is unable to report independently and professionally. “We opt to exercise self-censorship to stay safe as independent reporting of crimes or violence in the city is life-taking job,” a senior journalist working with the country’s one of the leading newspapers confided during a conference in Karachi.
The only good news November offered was the passage of Right-to-Know Bill in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly giving the citizen right to have access to public information. The bill, which critics and experts call “one of the best” in South Asia, still needs improvement. “This piece of law is one of the best in South Asia it still bars citizen from seeking details about the top judiciary in the province,” Zahid Abdullah, who advocates public access to government information, remarks.
The Peshawar High Court is not regarded as “public body” by the definition of the provincial government and, hence, Right-to-Know law will not be applied on the PHC if a citizen wants to know how the public taxpayer money was spent by the higher judiciary in the province.
Pakistan is acquiring every available tech to censor any page on Internet it wants. A report said the regulating body – Pakistan Telecommunication Authority – blocked some 0.2 million IP addresses in its fresh drive against what it calls ‘grey traffic.’ The latest in the series is the ban on the International Movie Database (IMDb) website. The short-lived ban – November 20-21 underscores the need for urgency to ensure online freedom and ‘Alliance for Access’ – an umbrella of civil society organizations striving for open net policy in Pakistan – does have a real challenge at hand to tackle.
Like elsewhere in the globe, Pakistan also observed the International Day to End Impunity of crimes against media. The country is experiencing the worse kind of impunity with no single case of murder involving journalist has ever been investigated and killers brought to justice. With the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the issue of Impunity a national-level Steering Committee with all media stakeholders onboard will soon begin making moves to tackle the menace of impunity to help media works in fears-free environment.
Wali Khan Babar’s murder case is litmus test for the authorities in Pakistan to disprove the popular notion that the state is avoiding to fight the impunity. His case was set to be heard on Nov 23 but no hearing took place for unexplained reasons and the Sindh government ordered transfer of the arrested accused to another district from Karachi on “security ground” as two eyewitnesses were so far removed physically.
October Media Review
A reporter in southern Kohat district is charged on seven counts while covering sectarian clashes in his city on November 18. His colleagues say the nomination of Farhad Bangash in the case under anti-terrorism law is “mala fide” demanding evidence against the reporter. It is observed police will book a reporter critical of the law-enforcing agency in high-profile case like November 18. In 1999 The Frontier Post blasphemy case, the police also booked its crime reporter who was filing critical reports about the law-enforcing agency.
No arrest is made so far in murder case of reporter Ayub Khattak and his family told a seminar in Peshawar marking International Day to End Impunity that local police was taking least interest to arrest the nominated accused killers. “The nominated killers are seen and local police is immediately given information yet the police have not been able to nab the killers of my father,” elder son Shamsur Rehman told Freedom Network.
It is well over a month that Dargai-based reporter Zaib Mansoor is taken away by military intelligence on October 14 for “suspicious call.” His colleagues say the reporter is still missing. Freedom Network is considering legal course to recover the missing reporter after his colleagues and family’s consent is sought.
November Timelines
Nov 1: KP Assembly passes Right-to-Information Law
Nov 6: Cameraman of Aaj News channel Umair Shah is attacked by police in Karachi, Aaj News reports.
Nov 10: Pakistan Blocks 0.2m IP Addresses In Fresh Drive Against ‘Grey Traffic:’
Nov 13: At least three journalists were injured during three consecutive explosions in Karachi
Nov 15: TV crew attacked in Rawalpindi after sectarian clashes erupted; cameras damaged
Nov 18: Youth booked over cyber crime in Punjab
Nov 19: Journalists observe Journalism Day
Nov 20: Royal TV reporter Farhan Bangash is charged on seven counts by Kohat police
Nov 20: PTA bans access to IMDb
Nov 21: PTA lifts ban on access to IMDb
Nov 22: Geo News channel’s young associate producer Salik Jaffrey killed in Karachi’s Ancholi area twin bombing with TTP claiming responsibility
Nov 23: Wali Khan Babar murder case hearing in Karachi did not take place.
Nov 29: Sindh government orders transfer of five accused of reporter Wali Khan Babar to Shikarpur district for ‘security reason.’

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