Torture, harassment of journalists condemned
Islamabad (TP) July 29, 2020: Media rights organization, Freedom Network, has condemned federal and provincial authorities for arresting, torturing, intimidating and harassing journalists covering coronavirus stories in the country.
The condemnation comes after television journalists, Saeed Ali Achakzai and Abdul Mateen Achakzai from Balochistan earlier accused paramilitary forces and the local administration of detaining and torturing them after they brought out a story on a quarantine centre along the Pak-Afghan border.
“What happened to the two journalists in Chaman and separately in Dera Ismail Khan district of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa is alarming and these and other cases speak volumes of the authorities’ disregard for the free flow of information (about Covid-19) to stay safe,” the Islamabad-based Freedom Network said in a statement on Monday.
Saeed Ali Achakzai, who is the former president of Chaman Press Club and works for Samaa TV channel, and Abdul Mateen Achakzai, who is affiliated with Pushto-language Khyber News channel, were arrested June 20 and sent to notorious Machh prison in Balochistan after they reported poor facilities at the government-run quarantine centre where Pakistanis coming from Afghanistan are being treated for suspected Covid-19 virus.
“The two journalists returned from prison three days after their arrest with torture signs and red welts on their bodies. Such treatment of journalists underlines the authorities’ intent to silence critical journalists. Such attitude on part of the authorities is condemnable and unacceptable,” the statement said.
It demanded Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal hold an independent inquiry into the torture of the two journalists and bring perpetrators of crimes to justice. Freedom Network “fully supports the Balochistan Union of Journalists’ demands to take those who tortured the two journalists to the task.”
The statement also condemned authorities in Dera Ismail Khan for harassing 24 News channel’s report Sajid Baloch who had reported Federal Minister Ali Amin Gandapur’s visit to a town despite a ban on public gathering because of Covid-19 virus.
Sajid Baloch told Freedom Network that the district administration was harassing him after his report on the minister’s visit and the district police officer was making lame excuses to arrest him under 3 MPS (Maintenance of Public Order) law.
“There is a clear pattern Freedom Network is noting that the authorities are linking journalists to public disorder while using the 3 MPO law. This is an extremely dangerous attitude on part of the government authorities and we demand journalists must be allowed to report Covid-19 fearlessly and independently,” the statement said.
Earlier, in a statement, press freedom group Reporters Without Borders had said: “It is absolutely unacceptable that representatives of the security forces should commit acts of torture simply because they didn’t like what these two journalists reported.”