Targeting of journalists in conflict zones reaches new low

Few months ago a tribal journalist wrote a chilling letter to various national and international organisations working on journalist security. In a piece published by CPJ, he was quoted as saying “I have been picked up/arrested in Peshawar on two separate occasions for unknown reasons … and kept in custody under extremely torturous conditions. I still feel frightened and am not comfortable at all to continue my professional duties at my work-stations in a free manner. Their threatening attitude and ‘advice’ to leave the town for some time prompted me to shift to Islamabad for about a week. Now am gravely concerned about my safety as it’s still uncertain when all this is going to end. The threat is not yet over”.

The threat for this journalist was definitely not over and now the threat has extended to his family. Yesterday, his brothers were picked up from his family home for an ‘interrogation’.  No reason what so ever was given for this interrogation. A group of journalists from the region, discussing the situation have hinted towards an increase in the intimidation tactics used to keep the pressure on journalists.

Afzal Mughal another journalist from Quetta was picked up in the wee hours of night (9th Nov 2015) for an interrogation. While he returned home approximately 12 hours later, the question remains on legitimacy of interrogation (and arrest).

The situation in tribal regions has a direct impact on the security and stability of the whole country. Creating a feasible situation for the free flow of information from the area is essential. If the interrogation of this journalist’s brothers is simply a way to intimidate and pressurise, it really is a matter of grave concern. The government remains largely responsible for ensuring that journalists are provided a safe and secure environment to work in. This will not be possible unless the issue of impunity is tackled. The government has to start taking the issue of journalists’ targeting seriously and start living up to its own promises and commitments to ensure a better and more secure working environment for journalists.

Asad Baig

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