Islamabad, Jun 23 (efe-epa).- Global media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) alleged on Tuesday that two Pakistani journalists were tortured by security agencies for covering conditions inside a Covid-19 quarantine center close to the Afghan border in the western Balochistan province.
“The ATF (Anti Terrorist Force, a unit of local paramilitary force Balochistan Levies) took us to the notorious Machh prison and tortured us,” Abdul Mateen Achakzai, a journalist of local broadcaster Khyber News TV, told RSF.
The Balochistan Levies is one of the two primary law enforcement agencies in the region along with the police and controls around 90 percent of the province.
Abdul Mateen and fellow journalist Saeed Ali Achakzai – who works for Samaa News TV – were detained on Jun. 20 close to the Afghan border and eventually released on Tuesday morning.
Photos circulated on social networks show bruise marks on the backs of the two reporters.
Achakzai alleged that they had been receiving threatening WhatsApp messages because regional authorities had been “unhappy” with their coverage of a protest against poor facilities at a quarantine center in Chaman, a city near the Afghan border,
“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,” Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk, said in a statement. The RSF has called for a judicial investigation into the incident.
Balochistan is one of the most restive provinces in Pakistan, with the presence of armed separatist groups, Taliban factions and other extremist organizations.
Moreover, journalists in the Chaman region also face harassment for covering illegal trafficking of goods and people in the border region, which often takes place with the alleged complicity of civilian authorities and security forces.
The RSF has put Pakistan at the 145th rank – three places lower than in 2019 – in its 2020 press freedom index.
According to the watchdog, between May 2019 and April 2020 some 91 attacks, including seven murders, were registered in Pakistan against journalists and freedom of the press. EFE-EPA