In the wake of the arrest of former Prime Minister Imran Khan on May 9, freedom of expression in Pakistan has suffered significant setbacks as internet shutdowns, attacks and detainment of journalists and media workers have swept the country. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its affiliate, the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), condemn the attacks on media workers and urge the Pakistani government to apprehend the perpetrators to protect working journalists.
In the days following the arrest of Pakistan-Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) founder and former Prime Minister Imran Khan, authorities have restricted access across the country to social media platforms, including Twitter and Facebook, with total internet shutdowns experienced in Islamabad and other cities.
On May 9, during ongoing protests against Khan's arrest, Nisar Ali Khan, the chief executive of Chhachh News Network, was pelted with stones by PTI workers in Lahore. Khan suffered injuries across his body, including a gash on his forehead and severe bleeding. Despite further threats from protestors, intervention by journalist Malik Asif stopped any further attacks on the journalist. Khan was taken to Tehsil Headquarters Hospital to receive medical attention with assistance from his colleagues.
In Peshawar, PTI employees attacked a Dawn News team on May 9, targeting and injuring reporter Arfi Hayat and network media workers. The assailants damaged the crew’s cameras and vehicle, breaking one window, and a side mirror, and creating a large crack in the windscreen. The PTI workers similarly vandalised equipment and vehicles from Express News and Khyber News.
The Peshawar offices of national broadcaster Radio Pakistan, the country’s oldest radio station, were vandalised and partially set alight on May 10, with furniture, equipment and vehicles damaged and looted.
On May 10, journalists Syed Mustajab Hasan and Faizan Ashraf were attacked by law enforcement while filming a police raid on PTI leader Raja Mahfouz’s camp in Shamsabad. Police damaged their cameras.
Senior journalist and anchor Imran Riaz Khan and Aap Media Group founder Aftab Iqbal were arrested on May 11 at Sialkot Airport for allegedly inciting violence between security forces and PTI supporters.
PFUJ President, GM Jamali, and Secretary General, Rana Muhammad Azeem, strongly condemned the attack on journalists and media workers. “The PFUJ demands that the perpetrators of these assaults be apprehended and prosecuted as soon as possible, and advocates for their arrest and subsequent imprisonment.”
The IFJ said: “Pakistan's government must take immediate steps to ensure the safety and security of media workers, as required by law. The IFJ condemns the ongoing violent attacks, arrests, and harassment towards journalists and calls on both protestors and authorities to ensure the media can carry out its critical role without fear of reprisal.” (https://www.labourstart.org/news)