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Journalists Targeted Amidst Political Unrest in Pakistan

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Journalists Targeted Amidst Political Unrest in Pakistan

Following the controversial arrest of former Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday, May 9, protests erupted across Pakistan. These demonstrations quickly escalated into a chaotic situation, marked by attacks on journalists and restrictions on internet access and social media platforms. The unfolding events have sparked concerns about press freedom and civil liberties in the country.

According to reports from the Pakistan Press Foundation and testimonies from local journalists speaking to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), members of the press have faced harassment and violence from both authorities and supporters of Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party.

On Thursday, May 12, the Supreme Court of Pakistan ruled Khan’s arrest as illegal, ordering his immediate release. Despite this ruling, the situation remained tense, with at least one journalist, Imran Riaz Khan, reportedly held in an undisclosed location as of the evening of Friday, May 12, according to his lawyer Mian Ali Ashfaq.

The turmoil also saw the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority suspending mobile internet services and limiting access to major social media platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter in various parts of the country since Tuesday.

CPJ’s program director, Carlos Martinez de la Serna, emphasized the importance of releasing journalist Imran Riaz Khan, investigating attacks on media personnel, and restoring unrestricted internet access and social media platforms. He underscored the right of the Pakistani people to be informed amidst the upheaval.

Imran Riaz Khan, an anchor with BOL News, was arrested at Sialkot Airport on Thursday, May 11, on allegations of delivering provocative speeches likely to incite public unrest, as per a detention order reviewed by CPJ.

Pro-PTI protesters targeted media personnel in several incidents. In Peshawar’s Hashtnagri area, demonstrators attacked a Dawn News TV satellite van, injuring correspondent Arif Hayat. They also vandalized equipment and obstructed the crew’s movement.

Furthermore, protesters in Peshawar targeted the building housing Radio Pakistan and the Associated Press of Pakistan, damaging property, setting vehicles on fire, and causing severe injuries to employees.

Police were also implicated in assaults on journalists. In Rawalpindi, officers attacked producers from Suno TV and Express News, beating them with wooden rods during coverage of a raid. In Lahore, police detained Aftab Iqbal, an anchor with Samaa TV, at his farmhouse in the early hours of Thursday.

These incidents underscore a concerning trend of violence and intimidation against journalists and media outlets in Pakistan, raising alarm about the state of press freedom and democratic norms in the country.

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