CPJ Blog

Press Freedom News and Views

Pakistan

2011


Blog   |   Pakistan

More revelations of threats to Pakistani journalists

Pakistani journalists and CPJ award winners Najam Sethi and Jugnu Mohsin in 1999. (Saeed Khan/AFP)

We released a statement Thursday--CPJ supports Pakistani journalists facing threats--about the decision of two Pakistani journalists to publicly announce the threats they had been receiving. Najam Sethi, editor of The Friday Times and host of a popular Urdu-language political program on Geo TV, and Jugnu Mohsin, also a Friday Times editor, said they had lived under threat for years but the level of danger had become so menacing in early 2011 that they were forced to leave Pakistan. A few months later, the two went public with the threats. Then, on Thursday, Sethi told us that he and Mohsin had decided to return to Lahore on Friday.

Blog   |   Pakistan

'Where is the state?' asks Pakistani journalist under threat

Students are taken away from a Karachi seminary where they were found in chains. Producers from Samaa TV who broke the story have been threatened. (AFP/Asif Hassan)

Since making me aware of threats to Hamid Mir on December 20, Umar Cheema and I have been encouraging Pakistani journalists we know who are under threat to step forward with their own experiences. Ghulamaddin, producer for Samaa TV in Karachi who broke the story of students held in chains at a seminary, is coming forward today. (Like many Pakistanis, he uses only one name).

December 27, 2011 1:45 PM ET

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Blog   |   Pakistan

More on threats and journalist safety in Pakistan

Tuesday's blog about threats to Hamid Mir generated a lot of discussion on our site.

Mir messaged overnight, saying his case was widely reported in newspapers and discussed in Parliament, and there will be a committee of Parliament established to probe the issue. The Associated Press of Pakistan noted that "Minster for Interior Rehman Malik condemned the threatening message to Mir" and the government will "ensure full protection and security to Hamid Mir and journalist community." And The News noted that "President Asif Ali Zardari has taken serious notice on threats to senior journalist/anchorperson Hamid Mir and ordered investigations into it."

December 22, 2011 4:55 PM ET

Blog   |   Pakistan

Pakistan's Hamid Mir publicizes a death threat

Geo TV's most prominent television anchor, and one of the most prominent journalists in Pakistan, has just circulated a detailed email message of threats he has been receiving. Hamid Mir's open, public response to the threats is a textbook case of how to handle the steady stream of intimidation that journalists face, not just in Pakistan but in other parts of the world as well. His entire message is reproduced at the end of this post.

Blog   |   Mexico, Pakistan, Russia

Journalists killed: Inside the numbers

CPJ today released its annual tally of the journalists killed around the world. This is always a somber occasion for us as we chronicle the grim toll, remember friends who have been lost, and recommit ourselves to justice. It's also a time when we are asked questions about our research and why our numbers are different - invariably lower - than other organizations.

December 20, 2011 12:00 AM ET

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Blog   |   Pakistan

Six years later: Hayatullah Khan's family calls for justice

Six years after the murder of journalist Hayatullah Khan, his brother Ahsan Ahmad Khan has asked CPJ to put pressure on the government and the Supreme Court of Pakistan to ensure that a special investigation carried out in September 2006 into the journalist's death be released. (A copy of Ahsan Ahmad's message can be found here, and CPJ's translation from Urdu is below.)

Unfortunately, we have been down this road before. CPJ has met with officials in the governments of Presidents Pervez Musharraf and Asif Ali Zardari, but none have followed through on their promises to make the results of the investigation known. CPJ joins with Hayatullah Khan's family in their renewed call for the release of Justice Mohammed Reza Khan's September 2006 investigation into his death. After a phone call with Ahsan Ahmad, we sent a letter to President Asif Ali Zardari and Interior Minister Rehman Malik today.

December 6, 2011 5:04 PM ET

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Blog   |   Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Belarus, CPJ, Mexico, Pakistan

Awardees to their colleagues: Buck the system

CPJ's annual International Press Freedom Awards dinner took place at the Waldorf Astoria in New York. (Michael Nagle/Getty Images for CPJ)

The Grand Ballroom of the Waldorf Astoria might seem like an odd venue to stage a call for resistance. Nine hundred people in tuxedos and gowns. Champagne and cocktails. Bill Cunningham snapping photos. This combination is generally more likely to coax a boozy nostalgia than foment a revolution. But the journalists honored last night at CPJ's annual International Press Freedom Awards had a clear message to their colleagues: Fight the power.

Blog   |   Mexico, Pakistan, Philippines

A call to continue the struggle against impunity

Umar Cheema, left, of Pakistan and Javier Valdez Cárdenas of Mexico, both 2011 International Press Freedom Award winners, are all too familiar with the culture of impunity. (CPJ)

Last night, hundreds of journalists and members of New York's press freedom community met at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in Manhattan for the Committee to Protect Journalists' XXI annual International Press Freedom Awards. At the event--celebrating the extraordinary courage of five journalists from across the globe--guests and award recipients unanimously expressed their commitment to fighting impunity in the murders of journalists.

Blog   |   Pakistan

Why I fled Pakistan

Pakistani police and supporters of the Baluchistan National Party clash in Quetta, Pakistan on July 14, 2010. (AP)

In May 2006, at the age of 23, I joined the Daily Times, Pakistan's most liberal English-language newspaper, as a bureau chief. I was perhaps the youngest bureau chief to cover the country's largest province, Baluchistan, and its longstanding, deadly insurgency. I covered fierce military operations, daily bomb blasts, rocket attacks, enforced disappearances, torture of political activists, and high-profile political assassinations.

In 2008, I got an exclusive interview with Bramdagh Bugti, Pakistan's most wanted separatist leader. I also spoke to top civil and military officers. In November 2009, I founded the Baloch Hal, (Hal means "news" in English) the first online newspaper in Baluchistan, the country's most impoverished region.

November 17, 2011 11:22 AM ET

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Blog   |   Pakistan

From Karachi to New York: A tale of fear, loss, and hope

Murders of journalists such as Wali Khan Babar give Pakistani journalists plenty of reason to fear. (AP/Mohammad Sajjad)

On Monday, a well-known Pakistani journalist came to our office in New York. We had been messaging and texting for a few weeks, so I knew what to expect. Despite the harsh reality check that CPJ's Sheryl Mendez and I offered during our 90-minute meeting, he is going ahead with the process of applying for asylum in the United States. "I would rather live as a poor man in a mud hut than as a king in a castle who feared for his life," he told us. It sounded like a line he had prepared to convince us, and perhaps himself, that he was doing the right thing.

October 25, 2011 3:27 PM ET

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Blog   |   Pakistan

Baluchistan's press under siege

Reporters in Baluchistan have organized a string of protests over lack of safety. (ONLINE News Network)

Reporters in Pakistan's conflict-stricken province of Baluchistan have been organizing to display their anger against the continued death threats they have been receiving from government secret services, religious militant groups, and armed nationalist organizations. Their most recent demonstration on October 1 was only one in a string of protests to confront the problem.

October 17, 2011 3:14 PM ET

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Blog   |   Pakistan

A killing field: The targeting of journalists in Pakistan

A journalist hangs a lock across his lips during a protest in response to the death of journalist Saleem Shahzad. (AFP)
For the past several weeks, CPJ's Asia and Journalist Assistance programs have been in regular contact with local and international organizations who are concerned about the rising number of journalists and media workers at risk in Pakistan. CPJ and several other groups are working together on viable, in-country solutions: Journalists in Pakistan are in need of trauma counseling, urgent relocation, or support so that they may remain in hiding and avoid threats or physical attacks.

Blog   |   Pakistan

Threats against Pakistani journalists: A reality check

In a blog entry on August 5, "Quantifying the threat to journalists in Pakistan," CPJ's Sheryl Mendez and I tried to measure what seems to be a rising number of threats aimed at journalists in Pakistan. We wrote about how the problem is rapidly growing as Pakistan's security situation worsens and the civilian government appears unwilling or unable to act. It is, however, tough to quantify the problem when so many journalists fear disclosing the threats they receive. 

August 18, 2011 3:45 PM ET

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Blog   |   Pakistan

Quantifying the threat to journalists in Pakistan

Pakistani journalists offer funeral prayers for their slain colleague Saleem Shahzad in June. (AP/B.K.Bangash)

For many journalists working in Pakistan, death threats and menacing messages are simply seen as part of their job. But since December 2010, CPJ's Journalist Assistance Program (JA) has processed requests for help from 16 journalists in Pakistan who are dealing with threats. Others have told us of threats they have received in the event that they are attacked. 

August 5, 2011 3:32 PM ET

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Blog   |   Pakistan

More safety guidelines for Pakistan's field reporters

Pakistan's journalists, watching the domestic stories they are covering become increasingly more dangerous, have started taking safety matters into their own hands. Zaffar Abbas, editor at the English-language daily Dawn, just forwarded to me a safety guide for journalists he has been circulating around his paper. His explanation:

August 1, 2011 4:40 PM ET

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Blog   |   Pakistan

For safety's sake: New journalist safety rules in Pakistan

From a poster by the International Federation of Journalists and the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists.

I got an early version of the Khyber Union of Journalists' (KhUJ) list of safety rules and tips for field reports around June 16, after the June 11 double bomb in a crowded market that killed two journalists in Peshawar. Yousaf Ali, KhUJ's general secretary had forwarded the list. It was quickly drawn up after that very ugly incident in which five other journalists were injured--in all 36 people were killed. 

Blog   |   Pakistan

Karachi might be more dangerous for media than FATA

Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik briefs Karachi's vibrant--and threatened--media in Karachi in May. (AP/Shakil Adil)

Karachi, Pakistan's economic hub, is one of the country's main media centers, with more than 2,000 journalists and the head offices of leading media organizations. Journalists in the city have come under attack before, with seven journalists killed there since 1994. But the situation was never as dangerous as it has been this past year.

Blog   |   Pakistan

A legal attack accompanies assault on Pakistani journalists

Concerned that so many Pakistani journalists have been threatened, abducted, killed, or beaten recently? So are they. When I was in Karachi and Islamabad in late April and early May, I found that they are starting to take steps to protect themselves with increased safety training and protective gear at the larger media houses that can afford it. Freelancers and journalists who work for smaller media organizations or are stringing in rural areas or conflict zones will need more help in getting access to that sort or training and equipment, though.  

June 24, 2011 4:26 PM ET

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Blog   |   Cuba, Eritrea, Haiti, Iran, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Zimbabwe

CPJ's exiled journalists survey: Behind the numbers

Berhane (Colin McConnell/Toronto Star)

In 2007, my colleague Karen Phillips suggested we do something to mark World Refugee Day. Initially planning to publish a brief statement, I set about reviewing our data for background, checking in with older journalist cases about their current situation and looking broadly for trends to highlight. As the number of cases began counting into the hundreds, it became clear that what we had was a new indicator of press freedom conditions. Today, we're marking our fifth year of publishing the CPJ survey of journalists in exile, which is based on 10 years of data on 649 cases. 

Blog   |   Pakistan

Having captured killing on tape, cameraman fears for his life

Abdul Salam Somroo is in danger. He is the Awaz TV cameraman who took the June 9 video footage of the pointblank murder of a young man, Sarfaraz Shah, in southern Karachi. That's the same part of the city where militants beheaded American Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in 2002. Only when Somroo got back to the offices of the Sindhi-language TV station and played back his full tape did he realize he had the most explosive footage he had ever recorded. Explosive, and dangerous.

June 16, 2011 11:22 AM ET

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Blog   |   Lebanon, Pakistan, Russia

November 23 becomes International Day to End Impunity

The IFEX conference in Beirut put a focus on impunity in journalist murders. (Lidija Sabados/IFEX)

Members from around the world of the International Freedom of Expression Exchange met in Beirut last week. On the second day of our conference, amid discussions of the daily problems journalists face, we received word of the abduction and murder of Pakistani investigative journalist Saleem Shahzad. A day later, the conference buzzed with news of an arrest more than five years after the murder of iconic Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya. As news unfolded in both cases, impunity--a recurring theme in official meetings and hallway conversations--loudly made its way to the forefront. And on June 2, IFEX members announced that they would join forces to globally put an end to journalists' murders and impunity for their killers, making November 23 the International Day to End Impunity.

Blog   |   Pakistan

Slain journalists' families in Pakistan mourn for lifetime

It's a coincidence, but May 29, the date of Saleem Shahzad's kidnapping in Pakistan, coincides with the killing of journalist Munir Sangi six years ago. Against all odds, Sangi's widow, Yasmeen Sangi, is still fighting for justice in the case of her late husband, while Shahzad's widow, Anita Saleem--who is now responsible for the couple's three children--has decided not to appear publicly yet. Either way, fighting outright or suffering in silence, slain journalists' families pay a price that lasts a lifetime

June 9, 2011 4:57 PM ET

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Blog   |   Pakistan

How can Pakistani journalists protect themselves?

Syed Saleem Shahzad, right, with Pakistani journalist Qamar Yousafzai at the Afghan border in 2006 after being released by the Taliban. (AP)

The memorial service in Washington for journalist Saleem Shahzad--who was killed around May 29--was held at the National Press Club this past Monday. Anwar Iqbal, dean of the Pakistani press corps in Washington, led the ceremony. Ambassador to the U.S. Hussain Haqqani spoke eloquently about the degree of loss brought by Shahzad's brutal killing. While many of the speakers called for an investigation into Shahzad's death, I had a different train of thought. I focused on an idea that had come up while I was in Karachi this April and May. After all, I thought, too many special investigations have been commissioned and have never seen the light of day, and the same thing seems likely to happen in Shahzad's case. But what if we could have prevented his death in the first place?

Blog   |   Pakistan

Justice for Saleem Shahzad? We've seen this before...

AFP

An important distinction is emerging in the murder of Saleem Shahzad, at left, as details of a second post-mortem were released Thursday. Shahzad was not tortured as has been widely reported. He was more likely beaten to death fairly quickly, apparently with iron rods, according to media reports. Here's the highly respected Amir Mir, writing in Asia Times Online, the site that published Shahzad's article that appears to have led to his death:

June 3, 2011 5:32 PM ET

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Blog   |   Pakistan

Rising anger amid accusations about who killed Shahzad

Just a few pointers to the angry discussion that is going on among Pakistan's journalists about the killing of Saleem Shahzad. The Inter Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI) seems to have emerged as the prime target of accusation, but it has rejected claims of any involvement.

In an Associated Press of Pakistan article Tuesday slugged "Salim Shahzad death source of concern for entire nation: ISI official," an unnamed ISI official denied allegations that the agency was involved in Shahzad's death. APP is the official news agency for the Pakistan government. The pro-military and security establishment PakNationalists website followed suit with a reprint headlined "Stop Using Saleem Shahzad's Death To Target ISI." And here's the BBC's take on the ISI response.

June 2, 2011 10:47 AM ET

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Blog   |   Pakistan

A friend remembers Saleem Shahzad

When I received an unexpected call early Monday morning from Saleem Shahzad's wife, I knew I was in for some bad news.

"Saleem has not come home since Sunday evening, when he was on his way to a television studio," she said. She told me that she then remained as composed as possible until she received a call informing her of his death 48 hours later.

May 31, 2011 3:27 PM ET

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Blog   |   Pakistan

Sethi: Pakistani media challenging military

Sethi at CPJ offices. (CPJ/Sheryl A. Mendez)

Pakistani journalist Najam Sethi was in the United States last week to talk about the challenges facing his country at a critical moment. Ever the contrarian, he also sees opportunities. "For the first time the media is challenging the military," he told an audience of friends and colleagues at CPJ offices in New York. "That's the biggest positive development out of the whole Pakistan debacle."

Blog   |   Afghanistan, Pakistan

After bin Laden, a warning to foreign journalists

The Taliban claimed responsibility for a bomb blast that killed two in Peshawar. (Reuters/Fayaz Aziz)

Security is always risky in Kabul, as it is in the entire Afghanistan-Pakistan theater. But the May 2 U.S. raid into Pakistan and killing of Osama bin Laden has raised the risk of retaliation against international representatives, including journalists. 

May 20, 2011 1:44 PM ET

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Blog   |   Pakistan

Mission Journal: CPJ tackles impunity in Pakistan

After months of planning and preparation, our CPJ team had assembled in Islamabad with an ambitious plan. On May 3, we had a meeting scheduled with President Asif Ali Zardari to discuss the country's failure to investigate the killings of journalists. We also had positive indications that our delegation would be able to meet with military officials and possibly even representatives from the Inter Services Intelligence, or ISI, the country's all-powerful spy agency.

May 6, 2011 1:46 PM ET

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Blog   |   Pakistan

Umar Cheema: 'Their efforts to intimidate me backfired'

Cheema (Pauline Eiferman)

On September 4, 2010, Pakistani journalist Umar Cheema was abducted as he was going home after a dinner with friends near Islamabad. He was held captive for more than six hours, during which he was tortured by masked individuals. He was told to stop criticizing the government in the articles he wrote for the English-language daily The News and was dumped the next day by his car. (CPJ has covered his case extensively.)

Seven months after his ordeal, Cheema traveled to the United States and stopped by Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism to talk to students about the dangers of reporting in his country.


April 20, 2011 6:05 PM ET

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Blog   |   Pakistan

Agreed: Pakistan is deadliest country for journalists

Just a quick pointer. Zohra Yusuf's column in The Express Tribune, "A dangerous country for journalists," deserves a link from CPJ. Yusuf is a former vice chair of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. From the piece: 

April 5, 2011 12:14 PM ET

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Blog   |   Pakistan

Updates on Wali Khan Babar and Umar Cheema in Pakistan

Here are two quick updates on prominent Pakistani cases we've been following:

Despite police claims made soon after the assassination-style killing of Geo TV reporter Wali Khan Babar on January 13, there have been no arrests made in his case, and there is little reason to expect that there will be any. Babar was one of 20 people killed in gang violence in Karachi that day. He was returning home after his report on the violence had been aired. Mark another case in Pakistan's poor record for impunity for the killers of journalists--the country ranked 10th last year in CPJ's Impunity Index.

March 1, 2011 12:28 PM ET

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Blog   |   Colombia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Mexico, Pakistan

Documenting sexual violence against journalists

Jineth Bedoya takes notes in December 2000 under the watch of a bodyguard in Bogotá in an armored car after she was kidnapped, beaten, and raped in April that year. (AP/Ariana Cubillos)

The news of the sexual assault against CPJ board member and CBS correspondent Lara Logan hit us hard on Tuesday. At CPJ, we work daily to advocate on behalf of journalists under attack in all kinds of horrific situations around the world. Because of Lara's untiring work with our Journalist Assistance program, she's well known to everyone on our staff.

Blog   |   CPJ, Pakistan, Sri Lanka

At Attacks launch: What if governments are perpetrators?

Umar Cheema

When we launched the new edition of Attacks on the Press at the United Nations today, I was hit with questions about Sri Lanka and Pakistan. Both dealt with what amounts to the same problem: What do you do when you're asking a government to investigate a crime in which it might have been the perpetrator? 

The Sri Lanka question came first. What is happening in the case of Prageeth Eknelygoda, a critical cartoonist and columnist who disappeared more than a year ago? The question starts around 17:07 on the U.N.'s archived webcast of the event. The Pakistan question, which starts at around 33:55, addresses the case of Umar Cheema, another critical columnist. Both Pakistan and Sri Lanka get ample coverage in this year's Attacks on the Press.

February 15, 2011 4:50 PM ET

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Blog   |   Pakistan

Flawed, but important: The Danny Pearl case revisited

Pearl (Reuters)

It's good to see that not everyone has forgotten about the Danny Pearl case. The Pearl Project, a three-year investigation carried out by a team of American journalists and students at Georgetown University says that the Pakistani government's conviction of the four men it claimed beheaded Pearl sometime in February 2002, were convicted on conflicting and perjured testimony.

In May 2006, Abi Wright, CPJ's then-Asia program coordinator, wrote in "Daniel Pearl: An Open Case":

January 20, 2011 10:56 AM ET

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Blog   |   Pakistan

In Pakistan, anti-press attacks spread beyond border

The death of a journalist in Karachi last week shows that violence in Pakistan is occurring well beyond the border areas with Afghanistan. On Thursday evening, Pakistani television reporter Wali Khan Babar was executed shortly after airing a report on gang violence in the city. 

January 18, 2011 2:21 PM ET

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