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Attacked, arrested & censored: Pakistani journalist forced to live in worsening HRs conditions

The police, instead of arresting the attackers, constantly ‘harassing’ me by using different tactics, said senior journalist and YouTuber Asad Ali Toor while talking to The Reporters.

Toor was severely beaten-up by some unidentified assailants inside his house in Sector F-10 on May 25 this year.

Regarding progress on the case, Toor said behavior of the investigation officers has been very disappointing so far, adding that the concerned police officer doesn’t meet, despite getting a prior appointment.

The police, after the incident, visited the crime scene and collected samples from, but did not share its reports with the victim journalist yet.

It was very easy for the police and other investigation agencies to trace out the attackers by using GPS locations as they were using mobile phones at the time of the incident, but the location of the suspects could not be traced out so far, he lamented.

While expressing displeasure on the support of journalists’ unions Toor said initially protests were held but now except some close friends like Hamid Mir and Matiullah Jan no one even contacted him again to get updates on the case progress.

It is to be mentioned here that the Shalimar police registered a case, under Sections 458 & 506(2) of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC), against unidentified persons for beating up the journalist and started investigation into the case in May this year.

Later, section 337A-I/337F-I of PPC were added in the case on a court order. A special investigation team (SIT) was constituted under the direction of senior officers from police, CIA and CTD.

The Court order shows that as many as 33 persons were included in the investigation. The photographs of previous convicts were also shown to the witnesses, but with no result.

Similarly, the reports of geo-fencing and fingerprints are still waiting while pictures of the attackers [from different angles] were also sent to NADRA for identification.

Justice Zafar Iqbal, in its order announced on July 15, 2021, has directed the Islamabad police to trace and arrest the attackers immediately after their identification.

Respondent is also directed to provide necessary records regarding the investigation to the complainant [Asad Toor] as per the law and procedure.

Regarding the report submitted by the police in the court, Asad Toor said that the police, according to the report, claim that 33 persons joined into the investigation, but they didn’t present a single suspect before him for identification so far.

The police, instead of arresting the attackers, constantly ‘harassing’ me by using different tactics Journalist Asad Ali Toor

 

According to a recent report of Freedom Network, at least 148 cases of attacks and violations against journalists and media practitioners were documented in Pakistan between May 3, 2020 and April 20, 2021.

This is an average of over 12 cases of violations a month and one in every third day. During that period, at least six journalists were killed for their work and seven were attempted to murder, five journalists were kidnapped, 25 were arrested or detained, 15 assaulted and legal cases were registered against 27 journalists.

The FN report further states Islamabad emerged as the most dangerous city to practice journalism in Pakistan during last year, with 34 percent of violations [51 out of total 148 cases] recorded in the federal capital.

Sindh stood second-worst with 38 violation cases and Punjab third most dangerous with 29 cases, followed by Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa with 13 cases, Baluchistan with 8 cases, and Azad Jammu & Kashmir with 9 cases. However, no violation was documented from Gilgit-Baltistan region.

As many as 148 cases of attacks and violations against media practitioners were reported in Pakistan between May 3, 2020 and April 20, 2021. Freedom Network 2021 Report

 

National Press Club General Secretary Anwar Raza said journalists are always targeted for criticizing government policies, but this government has crossed all limits of using power against journalists that is why the number of violent cases against journalists has increased.

Anwar Raza said the press club officer-bearers and journalists union have raised the issue of the Journalists Protection Bill with the government and it has ensured that it will be tabled soon.

Legislation for the safety of journalists is the only way to ensure the protection of the journalists’ lives, he added.

It will not only ensure the safety of journalists but will also make them accountable, he maintained.

Meanwhile, senior journalist Absar Alam was shot in Islamabad on April 20, 2021.

Alam was taking a walk in a park situated in the capital’s F-11 area when an unidentified man opened fire on him and fled. The case of the incident was registered in the same police station under Section 324 of the PPC.

Asif Raza, investigation officer of the case, when approached said more than 30 persons were investigated, including a suspect identified by Absar Alam, however, the investigation found nothing solid against him.

Raza said the police have received geo-fencing reports from NADRA however, a report of one cellular company is still missing, for which they have approached NADRA again.

On May 31 this year, senior journalist Hamid Mir was taken off the air, just days after he made a controversial speech at a protest against an attack on another journalist Asad Toor.

One of the major reasons for rises in the violent attacks against journalists is that neither attackers were arrested nor a single case ended to its logical conclusion. Journalists Rights Activist Iqbal Khattak

 

Iqbal Khattak from Freedom Network said that one of the major reasons for rises in the violent attacks against journalists is that neither attackers never held in such attacks nor a single case ended to its logical conclusion. They know that they will never be traced.

Regarding the highest rate of violent attacks against journalists, Khattak said Islamabad is the centre of all powerful classes and when journalists criticize their policies, they target them.

He said Pakistan is among the top ten countries in the world where the accused of violence against journalists are not held.

Khattak further said attacks on journalists are not just incidents, in-fact these are part of current government strategy.

Pakistan was on number 139 in the international ranking of Reporters without Border and now we are on number 145 due to the worst situation.

He added that Freedom Network and other civil society organizations are trying to force the government to table the journalists’ protection bill at earliest, but if this government did not make this legislation during their tenure the public will make them accountable in the next election.

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