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Pakistan: IFJ Statement and CPJ Letter Regarding Deteriorating Climate for Press Freedom - Bombings and attacks continue

Wednesday 9 July 2014, by siawi3

Source: http://www.sacw.net/article9090.html

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) - 4 July 2014

Press Release

4 July 2014

Journalist’s home bombed in Pakistan

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins its affiliate the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) in strongly condemning the bomb attack on the home of a journalist in Peshawar, Pakistan on July 2, 2014 – the third attack on the journalist’s home this year.

This week’s incident saw unidentified attackers placed a bomb in the home of Jamshed Baghwan, the bureau chief of the Express News. Both the house and a car were damaged when the device exploded. The journalist and his family escaped the attack as Baghwan had seen unidentified men on a motorcycle planting the bomb. He and his wife took cover as the bomb exploded.

Police have begun an investigation into the attack but as yet no arrests have been made.

Unidentified men had previously planted a bomb at his home in March this year – that device was found and defused. A month later, masked men hurled a hand grenade at his home.

The latest attack is the fourth on a journalist associated with Express News in 2014. The TV channel has lost four staff members. In January, three employees were shot dead in Karachi when its van came under attack. In March, senior anchor Raza Rumi was attacked in Lahore and his driver was killed. In 2013, the channel’s Karachi office was attacked twice, without any casualties.

The PFUJ has expressed “anguish and pain†over the latest incident, noting the failure of authorities to protect Baghwan despite them being aware that he has been targeted twice before. The PFUJ said: “The attack has further increased the sense of insecurity among journalists as its shows that police are not taking the attacks on media seriously.â€

Despite national and international campaigns, and repeated commitments from the government of Pakistan, the attacks on journalists and media continue to rise in one of the world’s most dangerous countries for journalists.

The IFJ said: “The deteriorating security situation for journalists in Pakistan is deeply concerning. We call for an immediate investigation into the latest attack. Pakistan’s journalists are confronted by a horrific situation: a disturbing spike in violent attacks on individual journalists as well as the ruthless targeting of specific news outlets. Decisive action must be taken to improve their security.â€

“The government must heed the calls of the media community in Pakistan and take meaningful steps to ensure the safety of journalists. The government must make every effort to ensure that death threats and violent attacks on journalists and media outlets are thoroughly investigated and the perpetrators brought to justice.â€

[SEE ALSO:

Pakistani TV journalist suffers third bomb attack in four months
http://www.theguardian.com/media/greenslade/2014/jul/04/journalist-safety-pakistan ]

[Text of Letter from Committee To Protect Journalists]

CPJ calls on Pakistan to act on pledged commitments to press freedom

June 23, 2014

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif
Office of the Prime Minister
Islamabad, Pakistan

Via facsimile: +92-51-2852663

Your Excellency:

We are writing to express our deep concern about the deteriorating climate for press freedom in Pakistan, which undermines recent commitments made by your government during CPJ’s mission to the country.

In our meeting with you on March 19, you told us you recognized the scope of the crisis that journalists face in Pakistan and the damage that the country’s record of impunity in journalist murders has done to its international reputation. We were encouraged by the exchange and follow-up we had with you and other Pakistani officials.

We urge you to follow your pledges to address media freedoms with meaningful action. A joint government-media commission to review anti-press attacks and improve security, such as the one you pledged to create, would be a great step toward improving the climate for press freedom in Pakistan.

Since our meetings, conditions for journalists working in Pakistan have drastically deteriorated. Only days after we met, unidentified gunmen fired on the car of Raza Rumi, a senior Pakistani journalist, as he was leaving the studio following his TV show. Rumi was not injured, but his driver was killed.

In April, gunmen shot Geo News senior anchor Hamid Mir as he and his driver left Karachi’s main airport. Mir survived the attack but sustained wounds to his abdomen and pelvis. His driver survived. The next month, two foreign journalists were expelled from the country after being told their visas would not be renewed. The Hindu correspondent Meena Menon and Snehesh Alex Philip, correspondent for the Press Trust of India, left Pakistan within seven days.

On May 20, some members of Pakistan’s Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) announced that licenses for Geo News, Geo Entertainment, and Geo Tez, channels under the Geo TV Network, had been suspended. Later that day, PEMRA issued a press release saying the order had “no legal standing” since the meeting had been attended by only five of its 12 members.

On June 3, Zafar Aheer, an editor of the Urdu-language Daily Jang, was beaten by six armed men as he was returning home from work. The assailants confiscated his phone and fired shots around his car before fleeing. Aheer told BBC Urdu that the assailants accused employees of the Jang group of being traitors, Jews, and Indian agents. He also said he had received death threats in connection with his affiliation with the media group.

Daily Jang, part of the Jang media group, is headed by Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, who is also the top executive at Geo TV. Rahman’s outlets have come under increased pressure since Geo TV broadcast allegations that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence was responsible for the April attack on Mir. Critics said the coverage was irresponsible.

Staffers at the The News—including Umar Cheema, who wrote critically about the attack on Mir—have received threats. Vans carrying Jang’s newspapers have been torched in Lahore, Lodhran, and Rawalpindi.

On June 6, Geo News was fined and given a 15-day suspension by PEMRA. The channel went from providing news to millions of people to a blank screen. PEMRA allowed the channel to begin rebroadcasting after 15 days, but news reports said cable operators were continuing to block the channel.

On June 20, PEMRA suspended Geo Entertainment’s license for 30 days and ARY News’ license for 15 days and imposed on each outlet fines of 10 million rupees. News reports said Geo was banned for “insulting the religious sentiments of viewers” in one of its morning shows, and ARY was banned for “bringing high courts into disrepute” in connection with a critical program.

This sets a very dangerous precedent and opens the door for future attempts to shut down news channels that are critical of the state and its agencies. More than 7,500 people are employed under Geo, and their livelihoods and safety are directly affected by the threats to Geo.

We call on your government to reinstate Geo’s ability to operate and broadcast in the country. Your government should ensure journalists at all news outlets are able to work safely and freely in Pakistan.

The commitments you made provide a clear path forward for media freedom in Pakistan. The recent challenges should not derail your efforts to ensure that journalists are able to do their job without fear.

We left Pakistan with a deep sense of optimism following our mission, and remain hopeful that your government is sincerely committed to ensuring greater press freedoms in the country.

Sincerely,

Joel Simon
Executive Director

Kati Marton
CPJ Board member

Ahmed Rashid
CPJ Board member

CC List:

Dr. Nazir Saeed, Secretary, Ministry of Information Broadcasting & National Heritage

Mohammad Azam, Additional Secretary Ministry of Information Broadcasting & National Heritage

S.M. Imran Gardezi, Director General External Publicity Wing

Humera Azam Khan, Director General Human Rights, Ministry of Law, Justice and Human Rights

Ambassador Jalil Abbas Jilani, Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, Washington