Pakistan urged to stop attacks on journalists

Islamabad, June 3 (EFE).- Several international rights organizations Thursday expressed concern over attacks on journalists critical of the government in Pakistan and called for strict action against those responsible for perpetrating them.

Human Rights Watch (HRW), Amnesty International, and the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), in a joint statement, called on the Pakistan government to conduct prompt, impartial, and effective investigations into the recent number of attacks on journalists.

They urged the authorities to promote a space for public debate and free expression and the rollback of official policies that protect the government from criticism.

“The frequency and audacity with which journalists are being attacked in Pakistan is appalling,” said HRW Asia director Brad Adams.

“The Pakistani authorities should bring those responsible for these attacks to justice and ensure that all journalists can do their jobs without fear of intimidation or reprisals,” he added.

Last month, Asad Ali Toor, a journalist, was assaulted by three unidentified men, claiming to be from a security agency.

The assailants forcibly entered his apartment in Islamabad before taking away his cell phone and other electronic devices.

In April, an unidentified assailant shot and wounded Absar Alam, television journalist and a prominent critic of the government, outside his house in Islamabad.

In September last year, both Toor and Alam were booked under a colonial-era sedition law for speaking out against the government on social media platforms.

“It is disturbing to see the space for dissent and providing information of public importance rapidly shrink in Pakistan,” said ICJ secretary general Sam Zarifi.

“Journalists as well as human rights defenders particularly at risk of censorship, physical violence, and arbitrary detention.”

The authorities are increasingly pressuring editors and media owners against airing critical voices.

Last week, the Geo news channel suspended talk show host Hamid Mir after the renowned journalist spoke at a protest in solidarity with Toor.

In recent years, the authorities have blocked cable operators and television channels airing programs critical of the government.

In July last year, news channel 24NewsHD was taken off the air indefinitely for the alleged “illegal transmission” of content, widely seen as punishment for airing criticizing the government.

“If the authorities are committed to uphold their human rights obligations, they must take decisive steps against censorship, harassment and violence against journalists,” said Amnesty’s deputy regional director for South Asia, Dinushika Dissanayake.

“For that, continued impunity must be dismantled.”

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has placed Pakistan 145th out of 180 countries in the 2020 world press freedom index. EFE


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