A man walks past a closed market in Karachi, Pakistan during a partial COVID-19 lockdown on July 30, 2021. BOL News journalists covering the lockdown were assaulted when they tried to report on a gathering at a hotel. (Reuters/Akhtar Soomro)

Pakistani journalists with BOL News assaulted covering hotel gathering during COVID-19 lockdown

On July 31, 2021, employees at the Peshawari Chapli Kebab Hotel, a hotel and restaurant in the Shah Faysal colony of Karachi city in the southern Sindh province assaulted, harassed, and obstructed the work of four journalists and media workers with privately owned news channel BOL News, according to a BOL report and a video report of the attack posted to BOL’s Twitter account.

The journalists and media workers were: Irshad Sanjrani, a senior correspondent and anchorperson, Syed Kashif Hameed, a camera operator, Syed Osama Haider Shams, a satellite engineer, and Muhammad Shariz, the team’s driver, according to the reports and Sanjrani, who spoke with CPJ via phone. CPJ also reviewed videos of the incident.

At approximately 8:30 p.m., Sanjrani, Hameed, Osama, and Shariz arrived at the hotel in a truck to cover a large group of individuals who gathered in alleged violation of a government-imposed lockdown in Karachi, according to Sanjrani. The hotel’s employees subsequently closed its shutters, turned off its lights, and at least one told the journalists they could not enter, according to Sanjrani, and the video of the incident.

Shortly after, a hotel employee pushed Hameed and threatened to beat him and steal his camera, according to Sanjrani and a video of the incident. The employee slapped Sanjrani’s phone out of his hand as he filmed the incident involving Hameed, according to those sources. A group of the hotel’s employees also pushed Shariz and attempted to beat him, Sanjrani told CPJ.

At approximately 9:00 p.m., three of the hotel’s employees pushed Shams as he attempted to stop them from interrupting BOL News’s live coverage in front of the hotel, according to Sanjrani and the video of the live coverage. Sanjrani told CPJ that a hotel employee also slapped Shams at the time.

At approximately 9:15 p.m., Sanjrani spoke with M.B. Dharejo, the deputy commissioner of the Korgani administrative district of Sindh province about the assault on the BOL News team via phone, Sanjrani told CPJ. Authorities have not yet filed a police report against the perpetrators of the assault, according to Sanjrani. Dharejo did not respond to CPJ’s request for comment via messaging app.

Police and Noor Mustafa Laghari, the assistant commissioner of the Korgani administrative district, arrived at the scene at approximately 10:15 p.m. and sealed off the hotel, according to Sanjrani and a video of the incident.

At approximately 10:45 p.m., after police left the area, a group of the hotel’s employees threw stones at the truck carrying Sanjrani, Hameed, Shams, and Shariz, injuring a civilian’s head, according to Sanjrani and his video of the civilian’s recounting of the incident, which CPJ reviewed.

CPJ called the Peshawari Chapli Kebab Hotel, but no one answered. CPJ emailed the central police office of Sindh province for comment but did not receive any response.