Press ‘freedom’ over a year
Two reporters killed.
19 major attacks were made on journalists and newspaper offices.
Foreign journalists deported
Local journalist prevented from performing duties
By Waqar Gillani
LAHORE: About 19 major attacks were made on journalists and the newspaper offices, two journalists (including Daniel Pearl) were killed, 10 were arrested and several reports were not allowed to be published, many journalists were stopped from performing their duty, many foreign reporters were deported and much else that happened with the ‘free’ on Pakistan between May 3, 2001 and May 3, 2002, was reported in the 7th annual Press Freedom Report of Media Watch, Green Press, Pakistan, release from Islamabad on Monday, two days before the World Press Freedom Day (May 3).
According to the report complied by Adnan Rehmat, Nadeem Iqbal and Zafarullah Khan, on May 4, 2001 police arrested Bahawalpur based Ahmed Nawaz Abbasi (Daily Nawai Waqt), on May 9 unknowns made an attempt to assault CR Shamsi (Daily Ausaf), on May 14 police beat Hadi Sanghi (Daily Kawish) of Larkana, on May 31, the additional district and session judge Islamabad banned reporters from covering a blasphemy case, on June 3, police sealed office of Daily Mohasib and arrested its editor at Abbotabad, on June 6, some unknowns attacked a reporter of an Urdu daily in Mansehra.
On June 13 a senior police officer abused a staff reporter from The News in Islamabad, on June 27 a special anti narcotics court Lahore convicted Rehmat Shah Afridi, publisher of The Frontier Post on drug charges, on July 4 two law agency officials attacked a Dawn reporter and a photographer from The Nation in Rawalpindi, on July 11 police arrested Hasan Maqsud of Hungo (Daily Mushriq), on July 25 security officials manhandled journalists from The Nation and Dawn and misbehaved with the lady reporters during a seminar in Islamabad.
On July 26 the timber mafia attacked a Daily Mushriq correspondent, on July 27 the government revoked the publishing license of weekly K-2 in Gilgit, on August 27 an unknown attacker injured Shoaib Bhutta an editor of a Islamabad based weekly, on August 14, the government issued an ordinance under which publishing, printing and reporting on militant groups was banned, on September 3 Pakistan ordered the removal of an article from the Newsweek magazine before allowing it to circulate it in the country, on September 4 Rana Akram a correspondent of Daily Pakistan was killed in Sialkot.
On September 18 security forces near Peshawar detained two foreign journalists, on September 25, an Irish television crew was detained after they filmed a refugee camp in Peshawar, on October 5 the Khyber Agency authorities detained some journalists guiding a foreign media team, on October 9 two French photographers were beaten by policemen in Quetta, on October 11 Pakistan authorities arrested a French reporter near the Afghanistan border, on October 13 Pakistan warned to foreign journalists traveling towards Afghanistan they would deport them, on October 25 Aditya Sinha of Daily Hindustan Times was arrested and later expelled for covering a meeting of Afghan leaders.
On November 2 the Daily Jung Karachi office received anthrax threats, on November 7 a US based committee to protect journalists lodged a protest for a visa being denied to some foreign correspondents covering a meeting, on November 9 British reporter Christina Lamb was deported from Pakistan, on November 15 armed men attacked the offices of a local daily in Sahiwal, on November 16 the NWFP authorities prevented a convoy of Pakistani and foreign journalists from crossing the Torkham border, on the same day an army officer in Islamabad assaulted Dawn reporter Faraz Hashmi on the road just a day after he had annoyed General Pervez Musharraf by a query at a press conference, on November 24 the government ordered the closure of any printing press in the country printing material against the military regime, on December 8 a Washington Post reporter was made to leave Pakistan on the government’s orders, on the same day armed men barged into the Hyderabad office of the daily Ummat and beat two staff.
On December 9 Pakistan stopped a cable network from displaying Indian channels, on the same day Robert Fisk of the London based Independent was assaulted by a mob of Afghan refugees, on December 10 Karachi bureau offices of daily Zamana and Balochistan Times were gutted by a fire, on January 2, 2002, Islamabad authorities slapped a 30 day ban on the Daily Dopehar for publishing an anti-government news item, on January 22 Time magazine Pakistan correspondent was picked by investigative agencies for a report he had filed, on January 23 ‘Wall Street’ journalist Daniel Pearl was abducted in Karachi and on February 21 a video tape of his murder received.
On March 1, Shaheen Sehbai The News Rawalpindi editor resigned under the pressure exerted on the newspaper’s owner by the government, on March 9 the government banned the entry of journalists into the Attock Accountability Court, on March 27 Islamabad authorities prevented an all parties meeting on the freedom of information, on March 30 the Lahore High Court summoned the printers, publishers and editors of Daily Jung and daily Awaz for a ‘wrongly’ reported item on the court’s proceedings, on April 14 25 journalists were baton charged by Faisalabad police while protesting against the present Punjab governor’s comments on the national press.
The press freedom report finally urged the government to upgrade advertising ethics on Pakistan Television Corporation, which it maintains makes a lot of money from unethical commercials. The report also asked the 826 license-holders of cable networks to follow a code of ethics. A special chapter of the report is devoted to the chronology of press-freedom related events in Afghanistan over the year.