Bangash, a reporter for the Urdu-language news channel Royal TV, was arrested on November 20, five days after he covered sectarian violence in Kohat district in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. The violence stemmed from ethnic clashes between Shias and Sunnis that intensified around the holy month of Muharram. At least 10 people were killed in the clashes, media reports said.
On November 18, police filed a First Information Report, or complaint, against Bangash, naming him as a participant in the unrest. Two days later, they summoned him to their office and took him into custody, Fazal Mehmood, the president of the Kohat Press Club, told CPJ.
Geo TV journalist Syed Yasir Shah, who is a member of the Kohat Press Club, told CPJ that he was covering the clashes on the same day as Bangash and that he did not see him participating in the violence. “Police blamed [Bangash] for supporting a group, but I didn’t see this. We were there covering the unrest,” he said.
An anti-terrorism court placed Bangash in pre-trial detention for further investigation, according to the Freedom Network, a Pakistan-based press freedom group. He was charged with seven offenses, including terrorism, in connection with allegedly inciting violence, the Freedom Network said citing local journalists. Police have not disclosed any evidence in the case, Mehmood said.
Bangash denied the allegations and said he believed the police filed a case against him in connection with his reporting, according to Freedom Network.
Bangash covers crime and social issues for Royal TV. Bangash had been critical about the police’s inability to maintain law and order in the district, Mehmood said, adding that he believed police had arrested the journalist in retaliation for his work. Mehmood also said that the arresting officer was Shia, while Bangash was Sunni, which could have been another factor for retaliation against him.