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Annual State of Media in Pakistan Report 2005-06

May 3, 2006 World Press Freedom Day




By Adnan Rehmat and Matiullah Jan

Internews Pakistan


Chapter 1: The Year of Reporting Dangerously

Chapter 2: Electronic Media: The Good the Bad and the Ugly

Chapter 3: Chronicles of Violations against Media



Chapter 1: The Year of Reporting Dangerously

There's been good news and there's been bad news this year (May 3, 2005 to May 2, 2006) for the media in Pakistan . The good news is that the impetus of expansion in media space has kept up from the previous three years – particularly in the radio and TV sectors where more licenses have been issued to private media – but the bad news is that so has the momentum of coercion, violence and intimidation against media.

Making bad news worse is that there has been a dramatic increase in the level of violence and intimidation against journalists and media organizations this year and the government authorities and functionaries emerged as their greatest adversary being involved in arresting dozens of journalists and attacking and beating up hundreds besides banning publications, media reports on electronic media, TV channels and Internet websites, shutting down radio stations, raiding presses, instituting cases against journalists, restricting media from going about their duties including aggressively keeping journalists out of large swathes of territories, particularly the tribal areas in the northwest bordering Afghanistan.

The chronicles of violations against media freedoms in Pakistan this year make for grim reading: at least three journalists killed; two abducted; 206 attacked, beaten, tortured and shot at; 65 arrested; four jailed; five threatened; 19 publications, 32 TV channels and 16 websites banned; 13 newspaper presses raided; one FM station sealed; 12 journalists and media organizations slapped with court cases; 21 prevented from covering official functions and seven newspapers denied state-sponsored advertising from public funds for being critical of government policies – making all this one of the worst years of journalism in Pakistan in recent years. In terms of sheer numbers, the contrast with the last year (May 3, 2004 to May 2, 2005) is striking: last year two were killed, this year three; last year 120 were attacked while this year 206 were.

Of the three journalists killed, two died in the tribal areas; one got caught in crossfire between two private warring tribes and the other was gunned down by unknown assailants. The third was killed in a family dispute in Lalamusa, Punjab .

Of the two journalists abducted, one disappeared from the tribal areas after filing reports contradicting official versions of the bombing of a private home in which a senior Al Qaeda leader was suspected of being killed. The other went missing as soon as he arrived at the Karachi airport in connection with the launch of a regional TV channel in Balochistan.

Of the 206 journalists attacked, 200 were baton charged by the police in Lahore as they tried to march for better wages and working conditions, one was shot at, but survived, in the tribal areas by unknown assailants, the houses of two were bombed in Gilgit and South Waziristan, one was tortured by the staff of military subsidiary National Logistics Cell in Faisalabad for taking pictures of them thrashing someone, one was beaten up by police on the behest of a local landlord in Nawabshah for reporting his excesses and one was beaten up by police as he took pictures of a takeover of state land by a private mafia. All of the above violations, it is clear, were committed by state functionaries. Then there was an unprovoked attack on the Peshawar Press Club by students and teachers of a school while the militants bombed a state-run FM radio station in the tribal areas apparently in retaliation to a similar attack on an illegal FM station.

Of the 65 journalists arrested, 50 were picked up after being thrashed by the police in Islamabad as they gathered to demonstrate for better wages and working conditions, one was arrested in Lahore for angering a local politico with his expose, four were nabbed for publishing material in their Islamist periodicals allegedly inimical to sectarian peace, one was arrested for reportedly being critical of the policies of the Sindh chief minister, four were detained for reporting on clashes between the Pakistani forces and militants in the tribal areas, one was arrested for taking pictures of two slain Chinese engineers in Hub in Balochistan and one was picked up for reporting sacking of artistes by a paramilitary force in Gilgit. Apart from this at least 30 newspaper vendors were also arrested by the Sindh administration for selling banned Islamist publications. Again, the vast majority of these arrests were a result of the authorities or government functionaries falling foul of media reports.

Of the five specific cases in which journalists were intimidated, one concerned a journalist critical of President General Pervez Musharraf who was put on the Exit Control List, i.e., barred from traveling abroad or facing arrest on arrival, one was bashed in Lahore by thugs allegedly dispatched by a film actress, one was threatened by a private Taliban force with expulsion from the tribal areas for reporting a gay marriage and two were threatened with dire consequences on an illegal FM radio station run by a cleric in the tribal areas. In one instance the Taliban burned newspapers in the tribal areas and warned of dire action against the media if they continued repeating the government labeling of them as “miscreants” or “terrorists.”

This year there were also instances of several media publications, TV channels, radio stations, cable services and Internet websites banned by the government authorities. At least three print publications brought out by Islamist groups were banned by Sindh government, 16 publications of Ahmedi minority community were banned by the Punjab government, two Afghan and 30 other foreign TV channels, most of them Indian, were banned by the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) while the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) blocked at least 16 websites of which 12 carried blasphemous cartoons of Prophet Mohammed, three contained materials on Baloch nationalism and one Hindu website hostile to Islam. In once instance, a political party even forced all cable service transmissions off air in Karachi and Hyderabad cities of Sindh province on a local election day to compel people to come out of their homes and vote.

At least 16 private printing presses were also raided – part of a crackdown against hate material by Sindh and Punjab governments – to stop publication of mostly religious periodicals and at least one private radio station, Mast FM 103, was shut down and sealed by PEMRA after it ran re-broadcasts of news bulletins from BBC critical of the government response to the earthquake in northern Pakistan.

There were also at least 12 cases registered against journalists and media this year. Of these two were charged with “anti-state” activities in Karachi for reporting contradiction in timings given by a minister and a police chief of an alleged police encounter which hinted at extrajudicial killings, six foreign newspapers (in Holland, Italy, Spain, Italy, Denmark and Ireland) were charged with blasphemy for publishing controversial caricatures of Prophet Mohammed (Internet giants Google, Hotmail and Yahoo were also made respondents in the case), two were served with a defamation notice for a report on alleged abuse of official powers by the forestry department in Punjab, a private TV channel was charged with unofficial use of state land for a live broadcast and a journalism professor was charged with violating government regulations for criticizing the government in a newspaper column.

At least seven newspapers were denied by the federal, Sindh and Punjab administrations – for varying periods stretching up to several months – state-sponsored advertising from public funds for being critical of government policies. Pakistani newspapers are highly dependent on official advertising revenue, which can be as much as half of all advertisement sales of some newspapers. The All Pakistan Newspaper Society and the Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors expressed concern that the government uses advertising policy to routinely pressure newspapers that are critical.

Proactively Passive

The nature of intimidation and the reluctance of official authorities to cooperate in cases of violence against the media has been a highlight of this year. For a government that rightly claims having increased media space and allowed dozens of new private radio stations and TV channels, it is astonishing that the authorities have been less than forthcoming in at least coming out with clear policy statements of their non-non-involvement in some serious cases.

In at least two instances the suspicion on the involvement of secret agencies in the disappearances has been accentuated by the disinclination of the authorities in cooperating in recovery of media persons.

For instance, on December 5, 2005 Hayatullah Khan, reporter for Urdu-language daily Ausaf and photographer for European Pressphoto Agency , who has had a history of receiving threats from the government agencies, Taliban and tribal elders for his reporting of the clashes between the Pakistani forces and Taliban and Al Qaeda in the tribal areas, was abducted from the North Waziristan agency. He was kidnapped after reporting an explosion in Haisori town of North Waziristan on December 1. His story contradicted the official version that a senior al-Qaeda commander, Abu Hamza Rabia, died after an arms depot exploded inside a house. In his reports Khan quoted locals as claiming the house was hit by an air-launched missile. He photographed pieces of the missile for EPA . International media identified it as a Hellfire missile fired from an American drone. Many believe Khan was taken away by the military intelligence.

Efforts by local and international media organizations to enlist government support for Khan's recovery have drawn blanks. These organizations report that the government has not been forthcoming about his case. Indeed, it has issued conflicting statements, adding to the agony of his family and friends. Requests for official investigation have met with silence or misleading information. His mother says he told her that the government was threatening him. He had been told to leave journalism or the region, or accept a government job.

Some of Khan's colleagues say he may be held by either Taliban militants along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, tribal groups, or the secret services. There have been unconfirmed reports that he has been held by American forces who have denied them. His brother Ihsanullah says no government authorities are willing to tell him anything and he suspects this is because they do not want to draw the ire of secret agencies.

Khan's case is not exceptional. Several journalists this year have been arrested, expelled or plain prevented from entering the tribal areas to report on intermittently fierce clashes that have left hundreds of Taliban and Al Qaeda militants and Pakistani troops dead since the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 ousted the Taliban government and forced many of its supporters across the border, especially the south and north Waziristan agencies, where the Pakistani military is cracking down on them. Few journalists remain in Waziristan after attacks and threats from all sides of the conflict.

Another instance of suspected official involvement in the disappearance of a media person is that of Munir Mengal, the chief of Baloch Voice , a Balochi-language TV channel based in the UAE went missing from Karachi as soon as he arrived on a flight from Bahrain on April 7, 2006. He had only days earlier announced he would be launching the channel to represent the views of “the Baloch nation.” His family claims the secret services arrested him to find his sources of funding. It appears odd that the authorities would feel threatened by the launch of a vernacular language TV channel since there already exist Sindhi, Punjabi and Pashto language channels in the other three provinces. Pakistani forces have been battling rebellious nationalists in Balochistan who seek greater national resources allegedly denied them. It is in backdrop that suspicions of the involvement of official authorities in the case of Munir Mengal are strengthened.

Also worrisome has been the increasing level of willingness to prevent journalists from entering or reporting from the tribal areas. Several journalists have been detained, expelled from or obstructed in the region from reporting on the government crackdown against Taliban and Al Qaeda militants in the region. Government authorities are not the only ones involved in restricting journalism in these areas; militant groups have also openly attacked, threatened and obstructed journalists from reporting, making the tribal areas the most dangerous in Pakistan to exercise journalism.

Overall, the range of intimidation of media has varied from attacks at the office, in the field and even at home. Identified intimidators have included the government, military, police, intelligence agencies, religious groups, politicians, landlords, etc. In some cases it is unclear who the attackers have been. Not a single person has been prosecuted for the intimidation of journalists. The targets of the media intimidation expanded from last year's list of newspapers, journalists, freelancers, television stations and independent radio this year to cable service operators and Internet websites.


Chapter 2: Electronic Media: The Good the Bad and the Ugly

The period under review saw tumultuous developments that influenced Pakistan 's electronic media in a major way. There were controversial changes to the broadcast law passed by the National Assembly and then a fight back by media and other civil society organizations to resist its final passage by the parliament. This prevented the law making it easier for a crackdown against officially-perceived errant radio and TV broadcasters.

The period also saw new actors appearing on the private radio, television, cable, teleporting, and Internet Protocol TV (IPTV) scene as licensees. Similarly, the Pakistan Broadcast Association (PBA) and Association of Independent Radio (AIR) emerged as professional representative media bodies in Pakistan , the former primarily the television sector and the latter radio.

Other issues which emerged on the electronic media scene included copyright violations, official ban on some cable TV channels and operators, illegal FM radio stations and the role of public sector broadcasters.

The country's electronic media scene was dramatically influenced by the devastating October 8, 2005 earthquake. PEMRA did well to respond to a crisis of information access for the quake survivors by agreeing to the proposal to issue non-commercial, emergency FM radio stations in Pakistan-administered Kashmir and the North West Frontier Province to provide humanitarian information critical for survival and recovery.


Radio Sector – Good Vibes

The year saw an exponential growth in the commercial FM radio sector where the number of licenses granted by PEMRA grew from just over 40 to 86 during the period. As of May 3, 2006, there were over 50 FM radio stations on air.

The 86 licensees do not include 47 bidders in April who were declared successful in the fourth phase of the FM licensing. The highlight of the latest bidding process was a Rs 30 million (or $50,000)-plus bid for an FM radio station in Peshawar , the highest ever, made and won.

Similarly, more and more educational institutions, private and public, also jumped into the fray. A total of 12 public sector universities currently hold Campus Radio licenses across Pakistan and more are joining in from the private sector. Some of the private and public sector educational institutions who got licenses during the period include Lahore College for Women University , Islamic University Bahawalpur , Hamdard University Islamabad Campus, Iqra University Islamabad Campus and National University of Modern Languages, Islamabad .

The earthquake resulted in a huge information gap in the affected areas and responding to lobbying, including by Internews, PEMRA issued within a few weeks 10 emergency area non-commercial FM radio licenses, eight of them operational. In April six more FM licenses for the affected areas were granted – this time commercial – taking the total radio licenses in quake areas of Kashmir and NWFP to 16.

The government has also invited private parties to establish terrestrial local TV channels in Kashmir . The government also allowed establishment of two FM stations in the country's Northern Areas.

These developments, particularly in Kashmir, is not insignificant as opening up of the airwaves to private sector in the region did not come without the government compromising on its traditional security perceptions and priorities in the area. But significantly this did not happen until the quake knocked down the monopolistic state-run media enterprises in the region. The earthquake completely destroyed the traditional electronic media sources in the region, which included state-run Azad Kashmir TV and Azad Kashmir Radio, whose buildings were razed to ground.

There are many challenges facing the fragile private radio sector in Pakistan . For some it is the world of the richest because a rich man in Karachi could win a bid for a station in Quetta and therefore, the station would not be a community radio station, one that should ideally be owned by the local community. PEMRA is yet to come out with a real community radio station definition and policy.

The private radio stations also face a severe lack of resources and government concessions on import of radio equipment and license fee structures. Similarly, the lack of faculty trained in new media and obsolete university curricula containing outdated communication theory means no journalism graduates versed in broadcast journalism are passing out to service the burgeoning radio and TV sector.

The universities have just begun to understand the phenomenon of FM radio as they themselves have just received the licenses for the campus radio stations. In fact strict license conditions have barred university's radio journalism students from practicing real news reporting and hence radio news reporting is yet to be introduced by commercial radio licensees. Presently a majority of FM stations rely on music and entertainment at the cost of serious and regular community information services.

Another challenge facing the private radio sector comes from the state-run Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation, which continues to be independent of the regulatory rules of PEMRA. The government is increasing the outreach and presence of state-run FM stations across Pakistan , directly distorting the market competition for the private radio sector. If it was not for the lack of quality and credibility of the state radio, the market forces would have had long ago knocked down the private radio stations. The government also established its FM radio channel in Jamrud, a town situated at Pak-Afghan border. The government says that it would establish 47 radio stations by the year 2009.


Radio Sector – Bad Vibes

Illegal FM radio stations also posed a big threat not just to the licensed players but also to the social peace and harmony of community. According to an estimate there are close to 100 illegal FM radio stations in NWFP alone owned and run by religious seminaries and mullahs to broadcast their respective versions of Islam. It was after a bloody clash in Bara, a tribal area, between two religious groups that the role of illegal FM stations came to light. According to news reports one of the religious leaders used illegal FM broadcast to dabble in propaganda against his rival who retaliated with his own illegal broadcasts. In the ensuing battle of illegal broadcasts a bloody clash ensued that killed at least 25. Defying official rules and regulations two religious groups in Bara continued their propaganda campaign against each other unabated before the deadly clash, on their respective illegal FM radio stations.

PEMRA said it managed to shut down at least 44 illegal FM channels in the federally and provincially administered tribal areas between September 2005 and March 2006. In an interview the PEMRA chairman said three channels were closed in Upper Dir district, 16 in Swabi, seven in Buner, 12 in Charsadda and six in tribal areas, adding that most of these were found broadcasting jihadi and extremist messages from the compounds of madrassas (religious schools) and mosques. According to another newspaper report the electronic media watchdog's job is far from over as unauthorized FM radio channels are cropping up every day in the tribal areas where it is difficult to enforce laws.

Another problem is that regulatory provisions, as interpreted by the regulatory authority, have made independently verified information access a little less easy. The authority, for instance, continues to ban BBC news re-broadcasts on radio stations, particularly on Mast FM 103. The issue is more than just a regulatory violation as these news bulletins are in Urdu and provide independent political information that is not available on any other broadcast medium. The restriction is odd because cable TV has BBC news albeit in English language. The Lahore High Court has, however, so far agreed to the official interpretation of regulatory laws but is yet to examine their validity vis-à-vis the freedom of expression guaranteed by Article 19 of the constitution of Pakistan .


TV Sector – Pretty Picture

The private TV sector was another high-profile marker of change in the industry. During the period PEMRA issued granted 16 private satellite TV licenses. According to PEMRA 24 applications have come under cross-media category for TV licenses during the last two years. There are four applications under active process. The interested newspaper groups, who were hit by monopoly clauses of broadcast law, were also provisionally allowed to establish their TV channels, pending passage of a bill that proposes lifting of ban on cross media ownership. The bill has, however, become controversial for suggesting more police powers to act against private broadcasters.

Even without a license there are some TV channels that are operating from abroad and have been given landing rights in Pakistan . Some of the highlights of the TV media scene during the period under review include launch of 24 hour Geo News channel, CNBC Pakistan and Voice of America Urdu TV for Pakistan .

The state-run PTV continues to enhance its grip on the market because of its terrestrial monopoly and lack of private TV channels' universal access to audiences in the country. This, coupled with no public service obligations monitored by the regulatory authority and a free hand to vouch for sponsors, it continues to grow in its servitude to the state in general and ruling party in particular. It announced to launch four regional channels, one each for the provinces of Punjab , Sindh, Frontier and Balochistan. It also launched a PTV tele-text service and reiterated its plans to launch Direct-to-Home service soon without having to bid for it as was done by two private parties who offered up to Rs 250 million ($4.1 million) each that have been accepted by PEMRA.


Cable TV – Unsteady View

In the period under review PEMRA in a campaign against illegal operations closed down 1,000 illegal cable operators and fined them to the tune of over Rs 1 million. There are over 1,300 licensed cable operators across Pakistan . Cable TV continues to come under pressure for contents from the government and for its very existence from religious parties. The pressures included police raids and confiscation of equipment as well as attacks from members of conservative religious groups.

Hundreds of people belonging to a conservative religious group attacked a cable TV network office at Jehangira in Nowshera district and set fire to the network's equipment.

Similarly, Muttahida Qaumi Movement, a ruling coalition ally, reportedly forced cable operators in Karachi on local election day to switch off their cable networks in their attempt to persuade people to come out of their homes to cast votes. The Cable Operators Association of Pakistan accused MQM of doing this with the threat of punishment for non-compliance.

PEMRA continued its ban on Indian cable TV channels, serving the cable industry with a notice to stop showing several channels, which it says are not on the approved list. News reports suggest that the most likely reason for the ban on Indian channels is the pressure on PEMRA from local TV channels which have complained that the Indian channels were getting a lot of domestic advertising.

In January 2006 PEMRA forced 30 foreign TV channels off the cable networks saying they had been put off air temporarily because they did not buy landing rights to broadcast their transmission in Pakistan . The authority said 50 percent foreign channels had applied so far for the landing right. In December 2005 PEMRA banned in Karachi 20 cable TV channels for violation of copyrights. In March 2006 PEMRA also banned two Afghan TV stations from broadcasting in Balochistan saying they were broadcasting without permission.

The period under review also saw some tension developed between representative bodies of cable operators and TV channels. It was soon after announcement that Pakistan Broadcasters Association, comprising mainly TV channels, had been formed which included cable operators, PEMRA announced permission of in-house CD channels to cable operators. The PBA reacted and demanded withdrawal of permission to which the cable operators reacted sharply against PBA and briefly stopped airing their TV channels.


New Media Platforms

In October 2005 a majority of private and educational FM radio stations on air at that time created the Association of Independent Radio. In September 2005 private television channels of the country also formed the Pakistan Broadcasting Association. In October 2005 the Parliamentarians Commission for Human Rights formed a bipartisan Friends of Media Group of Parliamentarians.


Broadcast Law – Law of Diminishing Returns

On the legislative front the electronic media did not have a good start as in May 2005 the National Assembly, the lower house of the bicameral parliament, passed a government-introduced controversial bill and sent it to the upper house, Senate, for its passage to become a law. Amid protests by press bodies the bill could not be taken up by Senate within the mandatory 90 days period after being referred to a mediation committee of both houses (National assembly and Senate). Astonishingly it outlived its 90-day mandatory period in the mediation committee as well. However the National Assembly speaker, as per rules, extended the life of mediation committee where once again the bill remains pending.

The positive aspect of the whole debate is that the mediation committee invited all stakeholders, including Internews, PBA, AIR and Pakistan federal Union of Journalists and heard their views on the bill. Afterwards, the committee directed PEMRA to incorporate the concerns of stakeholders in a new bill to be formulated. PEMRA is once again keeping the new bill a secret and has not yet circulated the new draft in spite of the committee directions.

Prior to the above, in an unprecedented show of support for media, 80 of 100 senators earlier filed with the house a motion calling for the bill's referral to the Senate committee. The PEMRA (Amendment) Bill, 2005, passed by the National Assembly on May 16, 2005 had been widely criticised by media organisations for the sweeping powers it accorded the Authority, and its potential to pose new threats to journalists working in the electronic media.

No Broadcast Media in Legislatures

Pakistan 's private electronic media continues to be discriminated against in provision of physical access to the information venues, particularly, the official venues which include, parliament, president house and secretariat, Prime Minister House and secretariat and other official events. The state media continues to enjoy monopoly in coverage of parliamentary debate and hence people have to content with official version of the visual coverage relating to debates by their representatives inside the parliament. Similarly, the provincial assemblies and the district assemblies have also not allowed their coverage by private electronic media as a matter of policy.

Copyright Wrongs

In May 2005, in the single biggest anti-piracy operation on record in Pakistan , the Federal Investigation Authority simultaneously raided and sealed six optical media factories with large-scale manufacturing capability. Over 100,000 CDs and DVDs were recovered from each unit and a dozen people arrested.

International piracy watchdogs, according to media reports, rank Pakistan among the world's top 10 nations addicted to piracy. The volume of DVD/CDs piracy business in Pakistan amounts to $35 million a year with 30 million copies traded at home. This costs copyright holders $3 billion annually in lost income.

In July 2005 t he government transferred control of three departments – Intellectual Property, Trade Mark Registry, Copyright Office and Patent Office – to Pakistan Intellectual Property Rights Organisation to strengthen anti-piracy efforts. In September 2005 a ‘coordination committee' was set up to analyse piracy and suggest measures to effectively curb it.


Public Service Broadcasting – No Service

The state of public service broadcasting in Pakistan can be examined from the perspective of both private and public sector broadcasters. The former, particularly radio and TV licensed by PEMRA, are bound by the terms and conditions of the license to produce and air public service programmes and announcements in a prescribed manner. Similarly, the latter, particularly Pakistan Television (PTV) and Radio Pakistan (PBC), are by law public service broadcasters and bound to cater to public interests and service.

With regard to private broadcasters and public service programming, while the terms and conditions of PEMRA license place numerous public service responsibilities on them, the regulatory authority has so far failed to come up with a policy outline relating to public service programming by private broadcasters. The provisions relating to this in the license agreements remain unimplemented due to lack of rules which have not been framed.

With regard to the public sector TV and radio, PTV and PBC – both of which enjoy universal monopolistic terrestrial access to audiences, continue to be misused by the government and the ruling parties for their own political ends. The daily PTV national news hook-up, Khabarnama , is the best example of what is not public service broadcasting; it continues to ignore political dissent from elected parliamentarians in the opposition camp and suppresses debate and dissent on issues of national importance. It particularly gives a twisted and tempered view of the political debate on the floor of parliament. It has failed to produce investigative reports to protect and preserve the interests of the citizens and consumers at the hands of powerful political and economic actors. This is despite the forced payment of its license fee by viewers through their electricity bills.

Chapter 3: Chronicles of Violations against Media

Journalists Killed

On July 5, 2005 Ubaidullah Azhar, the correspondent for Online news agency in Dargai, in the tribal areas in northwest Pakistan, was shot dead along with his friend Gul Wahid, in an ambush on his car as he returned home. It is unclear who the attackers were or their motive.

On August 2, 2005 Mian Khalid Mahmood, the former president of Lalamusa Press Club , was fired upon by three armed motorcyclist assailants who chased him on a busy road in the Punjab city before shooting him dead. The murder was seemingly the result of a family dispute. Mahmood was readying to launch his own newspaper on August 14.

On December 5, 2005 Nasir Afridi, the president of Darra Adam Press Club and journalist for a daily Urdu language newspaper, was shot and killed while driving in his car in the Darra area of the tribal areas. He was killed in crossfire by a stray bullet from a gunfight between Bazikhel and Malakhel tribes.

Journalists Abducted

On December 5, 2005 Hayatullah Khan, reporter for Urdu-language daily Ausaf and photographer for European Pressphoto Agency , who had a history of receiving threats from the government agencies, Taliban and tribal elders for his reporting of the clashes between the Pakistani forces and Taliban and Al Qaeda, was abducted from the North Waziristan agency of the tribal areas. He was kidnapped after reporting an explosion in Haisori town of North Waziristan on December 1. His story contradicted the official version that a senior al-Qaeda commander, Abu Hamza Rabia, died after an arms depot exploded inside a house. In his reports Khan quoted locals as claiming the house was hit by an air-launched missile. He photographed pieces of the missile for Pressphoto . International media identified it as a Hellfire missile fired from an American drone. Many believe Khan was taken away by the military intelligence.

On April 7, 2006 Munir Mengal, the chief of Baloch Voice , a Balochi-language TV channel based in the UAE went missing from Karachi as soon as he arrived on a flight from Bahrain . His family claims the Pakistani military intelligence sources arrested him to find his sources of funding. Pakistani forces have been battling rebellious nationalists who seek greater national resources allegedly denied them.

Journalists / Media Attacked

On May 3, 2005 police in Lahore baton-charged some 200 journalists, leaving at least a dozen injured. The journalists were marking the International Press Freedom Day by gathering to rally at the Punjab Governor House to demand better wages and working conditions. The rally, organised by Punjab Union of Journalists, was blocked.

On May 14, 2005 Mujeebur Rehman, the correspondent for the Daily Times and Reuters Television in Wana, South Waziristan tribal area, was shot by unknown assailants as they drove passed in a vehicle, injuring his hand in the attack. The identities or motive of the attackers have remained unknown.

On July 23, 2005 three homemade bombs were lobbed into the home of Khurshid Ahmed, the bureau chief of daily Khabrain in Gilgit in the Northern Areas. Two of the bombs detonated and caused damage to property but did not harm the seven persons in the house. The attack seemed linked to his support for the banning of some local religious organizations from publishing weekly publications for allegedly fanning sectarianism. This was the second bomb attack on Ahmed's house; the previous being on March 3, 2005.

On September 15, 2005 Asad Ullah, the photographer of Urdu daily Express, was attacked and beaten up by staff of the National Logistics Cell, a division of the Pakistan military, for taking photos of some youths being beaten up by NLC personnel at a busy intersection in Faisalabad city in Punjab province. Asad was forcibly taken to a NLC camp office and violently beaten up again. His camera was taken away and he was threatened with death. Other journalists who rushed to the site in Asad's aid were also manhandled, abused and threatened.

On November 14, 2005 a group of 200 teachers and students of Government High School No. 2, Peshawar Cantonment, ransacked the Peshawar Press Club after they were stopped by the authorities from marching on to the nearby official residence of the North West Frontier Province governor to protest government failure to transfer them into a new building after their school developed cracks in the October 8, 2005 earthquake. While no journalist was hurt, the attackers broke furniture and fixings and windowpanes before being thwarted by the police.

On 16 December 2005 a bomb exploded in the house of Dilawar Khan Wazir, correspondent for both daily Dawn and the Voice of America , in Wana, the capital of South Waziristan Agency of the tribal areas. Wazir and another 19 members of his family were present but no one was hurt. No clue as to who was behind the attack has been established but the area has been the center of some fierce clashes between the Pakistani military forces and the Taliban. Wazir dec ided to leave the area, figuring the attack was related to a report he had filed a day earlier for the VOA.

On January 7, 2006 Adam Jamali, president of the Sarhari Press Club near Nawabshah in Sindh province, was attacked and beaten up by the henchmen of a local landlord for reporting on their alleged excesses against some local shopkeepers.

On March 11, 2006 Muhammad Fayyaz of daily Mashriq was violently beaten up by the police as he took pictures of a settlement allegedly being taken over by the ‘land mafia' on the main Grand Trunk Road in Peshawar . A police constable also trained a pistol to his head to intimidate him.

On March 19, 2006 militants blew up the antenna of an FM station operated by the government in Wana town of South Waziristan agency of the tribal areas, suspending broadcasts for some days. This was the second such attack on this station. In July 2004, days after the inauguration of the station, the same antenna was blown up with a bomb.

On March 31, 2006 Pakistani troops fired mortar shells at a radio transmitter illegally operated by Muslim cleric Mufti Munir Shakir in the town of Bara in northwest tribal areas. Five persons were injured. The action was taken after 25 people were killed a week earlier in clashes between supporters of two clerics triggered by vitriolic comment aired through their illegal FM transmissions, branding each other as heretics.

Journalists / Media Persons Arrested

On May 3, 2005, International Press Freedom Day, police swooped down on a procession of journalists seeking better wages and working conditions, arresting more than 50 of them including Chairman Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists Pervez Shaukat, former chairman C R Shamsi and former secretary general Fouzia Shahid. The journalists were bundled inside two buses and taken first to a local police post and then to Sihala Prison in the city suburbs. Police snatched equipment from them and confiscated their mobile phones. They were released after three hours.

On June 13, 2005 Faisal Javaid, the editor of a fortnightly newspaper was arrested by the Lahore police and booked under Section 506 of the Telegraph Act. He apparently invoked the wrath of a local politician by an expose.

On July 16, 2005 police arrested the chief editor and a reporter of the daily Zarb-e-Islam . Police claimed the Islamist weekly was printing content that could incite religious hatred. The same day police also raided the offices of Urdu-language weekly Friday Special , a subsidiary of daily Jasarat , a publication of opposition party Jamaat-e-Islami, arresting its associate editor Abdul Latif, on the same charges. Latif was released on bail two weeks later.

On July 16, 2005 police arrested more than 30 newspaper vendors for selling Islamist newspapers that carried material the authorities deemed could incite sentiments of people against other religions and cultures. The same day the police banned several religious publications and arrested their journalists.

On July 18, 2005 military police arrested three European documentary filmmakers and held secretly for 16 days – 15 in solitary confinement – and finally deported on August 3, 2005. Leon Flamholc and his son David Flamholc (Swedish nationals residing in London ) and Tahir Shah , a British writer of Afghan origin were arrested from Peshawar , stopover on their way to Afghanistan . They were researching on behalf of their production company, Caravan Film , with a view to making a documentary about the treasures of the Mogul empire. Pakistani authorities said they broke the law by filming a military installation while in the country on tourist visas.

On July 19, 2005 the government of Sindh province arrested Mohammed Tahir, editor of the Islamist weekly Wajood . Tahir was booked under Article 153 of the Pakistani Criminal Code for publishing excerpts of a book deemed to be an incitement to religious hatred. He was freed on bail on September 9, 2005 by the Supreme Court. Wajood was among three publications banned on the same grounds.

On July 24, 2005 Rashid Channa, senior reporter for evening newspaper Star was arrested by plain-clothes police and intelligence agents from his home in Karachi. He had written a series of critical reports against Arbab Ghulam Rahim, the chief minister of Sindh province. He was released the next day but was charged with attempted murder although he managed to secure a pre-re-arrest bail. The Dawn media group, which owns Star , said their CEO also received threats of arrest from the Sindh government.

On January 14, 2006 local political authorities briefly arrested and threatened Haroon Rashid of the Urdu-language section of BBB World Service and Iqbal Khattak, bureau chief of Daily Times and weekly The Friday Times , in the Bajaur agency of the tribal areas. The two were covering the aftermath of an American air strike on a village reportedly visited by Al-Qaeda No 2 Ayman al-Zawahiri. Eighteen villagers were killed in the attack. Zawahiri was not among them.
On February 15, 2006 Abdul Aziz Lasi, the bureau chief of Urdu daily Intikhab was arrested in Hub in southeast Balochistan province and held for one day by military secret services. Lasi had just taken photos of the bodies of three Chinese engineers murdered in the province, at the scene of clashes between security forces and armed groups.

On February 21, 2006 police arrested Abdul Lateef, the chief editor of weekly Sada-e-Gilgit, from Gilgit in the Northern Areas for publishing an unconfirmed report about the sacking of artistes by the paramilitary Northern Areas Scouts.

On March 6, 2006 security forces arrested Haroon Rashid, a reporter for the Urdu-language section of BBC World Service , Haji Mujtaba, a stringer for Reuters , and Inam-ur-Rahman, a contributor to the APTN news agency near Miranshah, the capital of the North Waziristan agency of the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan to cover clashes between Pakistani military forces and Taliban. The journalists were released after a few hours and turned back but some of their recording equipment was seized.

Journalists / Media Threatened

On July 14, 2005 Shaheen Sehbai, the editor of South Asia Tribune , an online Washington-based publication covering Pakistani issues and a vocal critic of President General Pervez Musharraf was placed on the Exit Control List, which names Pakistani who cannot leave the country and who are open to arrest upon arrival from abroad.

On July 19, 2005 S A Raza, photographer for Daily Times , was stopped by five persons in Lahore who got out of a car, stopped his motorcycle and beat him up, handing him a fractured arm and a serious head injury. They warned him against getting any more “bad news” published against film actress Meera.

On August 24, 2005 journalists in Chitral in Pakistan 's northern areas received a two-page questionnaire from an intelligence agency asking intrusive questions such as details about their families, including their “strengths and weaknesses.” The journalists refused to provide any details.

On October 17, 2005 t own elders from Khyber agency of the tribal areas threatened a local Urdu newspaper with legal action and a ban on distribution of the newspaper in the region if it did not apologise as false its October 5 news reporting a gay marriage in Tirah Valley . Maulana Abdul Aziz of the Tanzeem-e-Itehadul Ulema (Organisation of United Religious Scholars), a private peacekeeping force operating in Bara area of Khyber agency also threatened expulsion of the reporter from the area.

On February 24, 2006 reporters from Khyber agency of the tribal areas Nasrullah Afridi (dailies Mashriq and Statesman ) and Khayalmat Shah (president Tribal Union of Journalists ) were threatened by name on a broadcast on his illegal FM station by cleric Mufti Munir Shakir to desist from publishing “false stories” about clashes between his supporters and those of one of his rivals branding them “enemies of Islam and the tribal nation.”

On April 24, 2006 several masked Taliban gunmen stopped vehicles carrying bundles of regional and national dailies and torched the newspapers in Mirali town of North Waziristan agency of the tribal areas demanding an end to being described as ‘terrorists' or ‘miscreants' as branded by the authorities and instead be reported as ‘mujahideen' or ‘Taliban.' “If newspapers don't change their policy towards mujahideen, the Taliban will take action against vehicles carrying newspapers as well as their local correspondents,” one of them threatened.


Media Banned

On August 5, 2005 authorities closed down the offices of 16 publications run by followers of the Ahmedi sect in the central Punjab city of Jhang . Two printing presses were sealed and cases registered against editors and publishers for “propagation of offensive material.” At least three persons were arrested. Ahmedis were declared non-Muslims by the government in 1974. Jhang police chief Hamid Gondal said action had been taken on orders of the Punjab home department. He said the 16 publications had already been banned but the Ahmedi community had continued to print and distribute them. The action was triggered on a complaint by a local religious leader, Maulana Manzoor Chinioti who has been in the forefront of the campaign against the minority sect. Gondal said he could have charged Ahmedi leaders and editors under anti-terrorism laws but had decided not to do so. For the time being, he said, he had booked them for “propagating material offensive to people of other faiths.”

On August 15, 2005, the Sindh provincial government cancelled the declaration and banned the publication of Urdu weeklies Wajood , Zarb-i-Islam and Friday Special under Section 19 of the Press and Publication Ordinance, 2002, in the interest of “maintenance of public order and tranquility” for “publishing objectionable material, which creates sectarian extremism, hatred among various sects and [causes] danger to public safety and order.”

On August 18, 2005 the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, a major party of the ruling coalition in the federal and Sindh provincial government, forced all 285 licensed cable operators and countless others to suspend their services in Karachi aimed to forcing people out of their homes to vote in local elections, according to the Cable Operators Association of Pakistan. The cable service remained suspend from 12.30pm to 4.30pm. There were reports of similar action from Hyderabad , another MQM stronghold.

On December 22, 2005 PEMRA banned cable TV operators across the country from carrying some 30 foreign TV channels, mostly Indian , including MM Movie , Star Network but also National Geographic and Fashion TV . PEMRA threatened fines and arrest for flouting the ban, saying none of these channels had permission to broadcast in the country. Pakistan banned all Indian TV channels in 2002 on the grounds that their programming was “contrary to national interest.”

On February 28, 2006 the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority blocked 12 websites, mostly of newspapers in Denmark , Italy and Spain , including for carrying blasphemous cartoons of Prophet Mohammed.

On March 16, 2006 the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority banned the cable operators in Balochistan province from relaying two Afghan television channels Tolo TV and Ariana TV. PEMRA alleged the channels were fanning negative propaganda against Pakistan .

On April 25, 2006 the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority blocked four websites run by nationalists from Balochistan province for allegedly carrying “misleading information” and a Hindu website. The sites banned included (carries news about insurgency in Balochistan), and (both supporting Baloch nationalists) and (showcasing a vocal Senator from the province). The carries hostile material against Islam.

Media Raided

On July 16, 2005 police in Karachi raided the offices of several religious publications, arresting four journalists and several newspaper vendors, and confiscating copies of the papers. These included Zarb-i-Islam (arresting editor Nasir Jehangir and assistant editor Mohammad Saleem), Zarb-i-Momin, Friday Special (arresting assistant editor Abdul Latif), Wajood (arresting editor Mohammed Tahir), Ghazi and Ummat . Police claimed the publications carried articles that incited hatred and violence.

On December 13, 2005 several Karachi-based daily newspapers faced delays in printing and distribution because the police raided Citi Press, a printing press, on suspicion it was printing a banned publication. The publications that faced problems included Jasarat , Amn , Imroze , Evening Special , Karachi , Morning Special and Asas . The police also managed to stop all city presses from printing Daily Islam on December 14.

Media Shutdown

On November 14, 2005 police seized the transmitter and antennae of Mast FM 103 , a station licensed by PEMRA in Karachi . Accompanied by PEMRA representatives, the police also raided the station's studios and closed them down abusing and insulting many station staff. The authorities said they acted after FM 103 retransmitted a special program on the earthquake in northern Pakistan that had been produced by the Urdu-language section of the BBC World Service . The program was critical of government response to the quake. The BBC World Service was forced in March 2005 to suspend re-transmission of its news bulletins by FM 103 in Karachi , Lahore , Multan and Faisalabad after PEMRA intervened and the case went to court over interpretation of the broadcast law governing the issue.

Cases against Journalists / Media

On May 28, 2005 reporters Afzal Nadeem of evening newspaper Awam and Asad Ibne Hasan of Daily News in Karachi were charged with “anti-state activities” for reporting the discrepancy in timing of a police encounter with criminals. Sindh province Home Minister Rauf Siddiqui said the encounter happened at 3 pm in which a kidnapped person was freed and four kidnappers killed. The police chief, however, said the encounter took place at 4 pm. This discrepancy hinted that the kidnappers might have been killed extra-judicially.

On June 24, 2005 Majid Nizami, the editor-in-chief of dailies Nation and Nawa-e-Waqt and Arif Nizami, the editor of the Nation were served legal notices under Section 9 of Defamation Ordinance, 2002, by the secretary of the Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries Department of the Punjab provincial government for publishing a statement by opposition leader Farzana Raja that he allegedly sold state land in Loi Bher reserve forest located in Rawalpindi district.

On July 18, 2005 Dr Mujahid Ali Mansoori, an associate professor in the Punjab University Mass Communications Department , was served a notice and charged with violation of government regulations by the Governor Punjab Secretariat for criticizing government policies in a column he wrote for a local Urdu daily. The case was withdrawn after an outcry.

On August 25, 2005 ARY TV channel was served a legal notice by the federal Archaeology Department for hosting a live program on local election day in Lahore in Punjab province from the Hazuri Bagh (park) under Pakistan 's Antiquity Act 1979 without seeking mandatory permission. The Dubai-based TV channel says it sought permission and got assistance from Lahore mayor Mian Amer Mahmood who participated in the program. The authorities were likely incensed by prolonged interviews of opposition leaders who were critical of government policies.

On April 26, 2006 acting under orders of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, police registered cases against the editor, publisher and cartoonist of Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten and dailies in France, Italy, Ireland, Norway and Netherlands under a blasphemy law for ridiculing Prophet Mohammed through controversial cartoons. The Pakistani blasphemy law carries the death penalty. Internet giants Yahoo , Hotmail and Google were also named in the case for allowing access to the blasphemous drawings. The case was filed by lawyer Iqbal Haider.

Journalists / Media Persons Jailed

On July 16, 2005 police raided the offices of Urdu daily Zarb-i-Islam , arresting its editor, Nasir Jehangir and assistant editor Mohammed Saleem. The same day police also raided the offices of Urdu weekly Friday Special , a subsidiary of daily Jasarat , a publication of opposition party Jamaat-e-Islami, arresting its associate editor Abdul Latif, and Wajood , arresting its editor Mohammed Tahir. The police claimed the Islamist publications were printing content that could incite religious hatred.

On April 7, 2006 the Supreme Court of Pakistan upheld a life sentence imposed on Rehmat Shah Afridi , the former editor for the Frontier Post and Maidan daily newspapers, for alleged drug trafficking. Afridi has been insisting on his innocence ever since his arrest and jailing seven years ago by the Anti-Narcotics Force in 1999. Afridi was to be hanged in June 2001 on two counts of death penalties, which were commuted to life imprisonment in June 2004 by the Lahore High Court, which ruled that hashish trafficking was not a crime punishable by death. Afridi was the first Pakistani to get the death penalty on this charge.

Media Restricted

On July 22, 2005 Harider Baweja of Indian weekly Tehelka was refused entry into Pakistan as she flew into Lahore airport even though she had a seven-day valid visa issued by the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi . She was told by the immigration authorities that she was on a blacklist.

On August 22, 2005 government functionaries at the Governor House in Sindh province misbehaved with at least 20 editors and reporters invited to cover a press conference by Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz and pushed them off the front rows to seat themselves. The entire press corps walked out and boycotted the press conference.

On January 31, 2006 the Ministry of Commerce of the Government of Pakistan issued a circular restricting the entry of media persons into its premises to limit reporting on trade related issues, including negotiations with foreign countries. The circular said: “It has been notified that the information relating to certain policy issues under consideration of the ministry has been published in the print media before these were finalized. This has not only put the ministry in an embarrassing position but also created confusion for the general public. As per standard operating procedure, only the official representative of the Ministry of Commerce is authorized to release information to the media. The visiting journalists may be politely told to contact the official spokesman if some information relating to the ministry of commerce is needed. Violation of these instructions will constitute misconduct within the meaning of Government Servant (Conduct) Rules 1964 and dealt with accordingly.”


Ban on State-Advertising for Private Media

In May 2005, first the government of Pakistan 's Punjab province and then the federal government banned state-sponsored advertising in influential Urdu daily Nawa-e-Waqt and its sister publication, the English-language daily The Nation . The Punjab ban came for critical reporting of the government by the conservative publications while the federal ban was slapped after the dailies carried private advertising from opposition leader and former prime minister Benazir Bhutto's Pakistan Peoples Party which marked the arrival of Bhutto's husband and party leader Asif Zardari in Lahore , the capital of Punjab . The federal and provincial governments also periodically withheld state-sponsored advertising from English dailies Dawn , Frontier Post and Business Recorder and Urdu dailies Sahafat and Ausaf .

Author contacts:

Adnan Rehmat

Country Director

Internews Pakistan


Matiullah Jan

Media Law and Policy Advisor

Internews Pakistan

DISCLAIMER: The contents of this report reflect the views of the authors alone and do not necessarily reflect those of Internews Pakistan or any of its donors.  

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