Pakistan Rangers beat and detained Faysal Mujeeb, a photographer with Dawn-White Star, while he was covering a political event in Karachi city. On October 19, the Rangers take part in a religious procession in Karachi. (AFP/Rizwan Tabassum)

Photographer Faysal Mujeeb beaten, detained by Pakistan Rangers while covering political party event

Washington, D.C., December 20, 2021 – Pakistan authorities must conduct an immediate and impartial investigation into the beating and detention of Faysal Mujeeb and ensure law enforcement agencies allow journalists to operate freely and safely, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

On the evening of December 9, officers with the Pakistan Rangers, a paramilitary federal law enforcement agency, beat and detained Mujeeb, a photographer with Dawn-White Star, a photographic firm associated with the DAWN Media Group, while he was covering an event of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement political party in the Azizabad neighborhood of Karachi city, in the southern Sindh province, according to a report by Dawn newspaper, a video of the incident posted by a Dawn journalist and shared by the newspaper, and the photographer, who spoke to CPJ in a phone interview.

When Rangers officers began detaining some of the demonstrators who chanted in favor of Altaf Husain, the founder of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, they approached Mujeeb, who repeatedly identified himself as a senior photojournalist with Dawn, grabbed him, and beat him with lathis, or heavy sticks used by law enforcement in Pakistan, as they took him to an adjacent open area that had been cordoned off for the event, according to Mujeeb and the video of the incident.

The officers then covered Mujeeb’s face with a shirt, shoved him to the ground, and intermittently beat and kicked him, according to the journalist, who said that he was released one hour later when a Rangers officer checked his press identification card and verified his credentials.

“The beating and detention of Faysal Mujeeb, who repeatedly identified himself as a photojournalist, is a shameful and brazen attack that must be thoroughly and impartially investigated,” said Steven Butler, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator, in Washington, D.C. “Pakistan must not allow its own law enforcement officials to launch this kind of assault on journalists with impunity.”

Mujeeb told CPJ that sometime while he was being assaulted, Rangers officers damaged his phone, camera, and helmet. The journalist sustained red lesions on his back and internal injuries from the beatings, but did not seek medical attention, he said.

Mujeeb told CPJ and Dawn that another media worker, Mehboob Ahmed Chishti, was beaten, detained, and hospitalized after covering the event. CPJ called and messaged Chishti for comment but did not receive any reply. CPJ was unable to identify other contact information for Chishti or confirm details of the incident.

On November 8, Pakistani journalist Muhammad Zada Agra was fatally shot in Malakand district, as CPJ documented.

The Pakistan Rangers in Sindh province did not respond to CPJ’s emailed request for comment.