President writes to PM; conveys deep concern on torture against journalists

President Dr Arif Alvi on Thursday wrote a letter to Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif conveying his deep concern on the rising trend of harassment and torture against journalists and media persons in Pakistan.

The president, referring to recent incidents of violence against journalists, said such events reflected a mindset of intolerance having negative repercussions both on the future of democracy as well as freedom of expression as guaranteed by Article 19 of the Constitution of Pakistan and Article 19 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

“Such actions also come under international focus and tarnish the image of our country,” he remarked.

The president noted with concern that Pakistan stood at 157th position in the Freedom of Press Index-2022, which was very low and said the Reporters Without Borders (RSF), Human Rights Watch (HRW), Amnesty International (AI), and the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) in their reports had attributed harassment, intimidation, and physical violence against journalists as the main reasons for the dismal position of Pakistan in the said index.

He also referred to the reports of the Committee to Protect the Journalists (CPJ) and HRW, wherein they had reported that 96 journalists had been killed in Pakistan from 1992 to 2022 and alleged that the journalists in Pakistan were subjected to charges of sedition and terrorism to stifle dissent and criticism against the powerful elements of the state.

While mentioning a few important cases, the president named Nazim Jokhiyo, a citizen journalist, who was abducted from his house in Karachi and was tortured to death, and Aziz Memon, a journalist of KTN and Daily Kawish, who was killed near his home town Mehrabpur in Sindh. Another journalist Matiullah Jan was abducted in broad daylight from a busy area of Islamabad. Asad Ali Toor and Absar Alam were assaulted and injured by unidentified men.

He also mentioned Ayaz Amir, who was attacked, humiliated and bruised by unknown persons on the road during rush hours in the presence of many eyewitnesses in Lahore and multiple FIRs (first information reports) had been registered against Sami Ibrahim, Arshad Sharif, Sabir Shakir, Imran Riaz Khan and Moeed Pirzada at various police stations in a number of cities across the country.

President Alvi observed that recent actions being taken against the reputed journalists undermined the efforts of the judiciary.

He noted that when in one jurisdiction relief was provided, cases were filed in another jurisdiction with mala fide intention to continue the harassment.

The president emphasized that the actions or inactions of previous governments should not be used as a ruse to repeat similar violations and such a stance was both untenable and a lame excuse.

This comparison, he said, instead of taking the country in a progressive and positive direction would become a justification to do worse in retaliation.

President Alvi stressed that Pakistan being a democratic country, should not allow oppression and persecution of intelligentsia and journalists.

He said the law enforcement agencies might be directed to ensure the protection of journalists and media persons. The politicians across the aisle should also play their role to save the journalists from the highhandedness of unknown and unscrupulous elements, he urged.

The president asked the prime minister to keep him informed of the remedial actions taken by him as per Article 46 of the Constitution.

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