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Journalists Targeted and Assaulted Amid Political Unrest in Pakistan

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Journalists Targeted and Assaulted Amid Political Unrest in Pakistan

Since May 16, there have been reports of police visiting the homes of at least three journalists who provided coverage of the May 9 protest, including an attack on the residence of an army corps commander. Among those targeted is freelance journalist Shahid Aslam, who recounted to CPJ how police stationed themselves outside his Lahore apartment for a week, repeatedly questioning his whereabouts and surveilling the premises while he was away reporting in Islamabad. Aslam, known for his political affairs YouTube channel, was informed by a senior Lahore police official that he had been identified through geofencing, a concerning practice raising questions about privacy and press freedoms.

Violence and Threats

Jahangir Hayat, a chief reporter for a private newspaper and a YouTuber covering political affairs, faced a terrifying ordeal when unidentified assailants, some in police uniforms, stormed his Lahore home on May 17. Without presenting a warrant, they viciously attacked him, leaving him with injuries including broken teeth, and assaulted his family, including his 13-year-old son. Hayat and his family sought refuge at the Lahore Press Club following the attack, only to witness further aggression as authorities raided their home on May 18, purportedly searching for the journalist. It wasn’t until the intervention of Lahore Press Club officials that Hayat and his family were able to return home safely.

Persistent Harassment

Sarfraz Ahmed Khan, the deputy bureau chief of a private broadcaster, also found himself targeted by authorities following his coverage of the May 9 protest. Between May 21 and 23, police made numerous visits to Khan’s Lahore residence, claiming an arrest warrant had been issued against him under the Anti-Terrorism Act. Khan expressed deep concern over the leaking of a police document containing his personal details, obtained through facial recognition software. Despite assurances from Punjab police that the issue had been resolved and Khan would not face further harassment, police once again visited his home on May 23, only departing after confirming protection had been extended to him by a senior Lahore police official.

Call for Accountability

The alarming targeting and assault of journalists come amid broader concerns about press freedom and safety in Pakistan. CPJ, alongside various press freedom advocates, underscores the urgent need for authorities to adhere to the rule of law, respect journalistic freedoms, and ensure the safety of media professionals. Such incidents not only undermine the vital role of journalists in informing the public but also represent a grave threat to democracy and the rule of law.

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