Washington, D.C., May 28, 2019–Pakistani authorities should immediately and unconditionally release Gohar Wazir, a reporter with private satellite TV station Khyber News, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
Wazir was arrested by security officials in Bannu, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, on May 27, after reporting on demonstrations of the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM)–a mass movement promoting the rights of the Pashtun people–according to news reports. Yesterday, he interviewed Mohsin Dawar, a prominent PTM leader who was elected to Pakistan’s National Assembly last year.
Although PTM rallies have drawn huge crowds, news coverage has been scant, according to reports. Journalists who asked to remain anonymous due to security concerns told CPJ that the military has applied pressure not to report on the movement, which the military sees as a challenge to its authority.
“Gohar Wazir should not have to face arrest merely for doing the job of reporting the news, even reporting on controversial events such as protests by the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement,” said Steven Butler, CPJ Asia program coordinator. “Restrictions on Pakistan’s media only serve to undermine the strength of Pakistan’s democracy.”
Wazir was arrested along with 21 other people under the Maintenance of Public Order Ordinance, according to Samaa TV and a tweet by local watchdog group Pakistan Media Watch. The MPO allows for preventive detention for up to six months, according to a report by Human Rights Watch. CPJ has been unable to determine where Wazir is being held.
The Pakhtun Journalists Association issued a statement on Facebook urging Wazir’s release and calling the arrest an “attack on journalism.”
An email seeking comment from Pakistan’s Ministry of Information was not immediately answered.
Although the killing of journalists has declined in Pakistan in recent years, CPJ has documented a rising trend of censorship owing to pressure from the military.
[EDITOR’S NOTE: The headline and photo caption have been updated to correct the location where the arrest took place. The second paragraph has been updated to correct the spelling of Dawar’s name and the date of Wazir’s arrest.]