World Video | Defence | Foreign Affairs | Natural Events | Trade | NZ in World News | NZ National News Video | NZ Regional News | Search

 


Pakistan: Attacks on journalists and rights defenders

PAKISTAN: Attacks on journalists and rights defenders in Pakistan
The government should investigate the source and nature of threats to Asma Jahangir's life, and take appropriate action.

Razi Rumi

Published in: The Friday Times
June 8, 2012

Raza Rumi talks to Ali Dayan Hasan Pakistan Director at Human Rights Watch

Q: A year after the murder of Saleem Shahzad and in light of the strong reaction by journalists to his killing, are media professionals safer in Pakistan today?

A: The revulsion and outrage with which not journalists but society more broadly reacted to Shahzad's gruesome murder was both commendable and brave. But the sad fact is that his killers remain at large and the right to freedom of expression and information is under persistent pressure by both militant groups and state security agencies. And the government has been able to do little to change that situation.

Pakistan is widely considered to be one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists. At least 10 journalists were killed in Pakistan during 2011 and six have been killed so far this year. Four journalists were killed in the month of May alone. These are not just statistics but real people. Tariq Kamal and Aurangzeb Tunio were killed on May 9 and May 10 respectively. On May 18,the bullet-riddled body of Express News correspondent Razzaq Gul was found dumped in a deserted area near Turbat. Security agencies are suspected of involvement in his killing. On May 28, Abdul Qadir Hajizai was killed in Balochistan when armed men on a motorbike shot him dead. Reportedly, the Baloch Liberation Front claimed responsibility for his killing. In none of these cases has anyone been held accountable.

Q: So you are describing a situation, particularly in Balochistan, where both state and militant groups are killing journalists...

A: Not just in Balochistan but also in FATA and KP. A climate of fear impedes media coverage of the military and militant groups. Journalists rarely report on human rights abuses by the military in counterterrorism operations and the Taliban and other armed groups regularly threaten media outlets. Meanwhile, legitimate media scrutiny of the judiciary also stands greatly curtailed due to fear of contempt of court proceedings.

Q: Increasingly there are fears that human rights defenders are being targeted. Does HRW also see threats to human rights defenders as an emerging danger?

A: Yes. I am not at liberty to bring all cases into the public domain as often human rights defenders are part of and live in local communities. But in Balochistan, Siddique Eido, a coordinator for Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), was abducted with another man by men in security forces uniforms on December 21, 2010, from the town of Pasni. The bodies of both men, bearing marks of torture, were found in Ormara, Gwadar district, on April 28, 2011. In March 2011, an HRCP coordinator for the city of Khuzdar, Naeem Sabir district, was shot and killed by unknown assailants. And now even someone as prominent and respected as Asma Jahangir has alleged a plot by the intelligence agencies to kill her.

Q: But critics would argue that Asma Jahangir is a politicised figure and she has offered no proof to substantiate her allegations...

A: Let me be blunt. Asma Jahangir is no ordinary person. She is an activist of 30 years with a demonstrable record of unflinching integrity. Not only is she a figure viewed with admiration in Pakistan, she is seen as an icon by many in the international human rights movement. During these decades, she has been a consistent critic of the military and intelligence agencies but has never made such an allegation. But when she speaks the world hears respectfully and with attention. It is for the government of Pakistan to fully investigate the matter and unearth the truth of the matter. And I want to be absolutely clear: the intelligence apparatus must understand that if any harm comes to Asma Jahangir, the response from the international community will be severe.

Q: While there are plenty of accusations against the intelligence agencies involving relatively anonymous, low-level political opponents, is there any case on the record where they have been held responsible for the killing of such a high profile figure?

A: Ascribing responsibility is a consequence of meaningful accountability. And the fact is that intelligence agencies in Pakistan can perpetrate abuses with impunity. But I would remind you that in April 2010, a three-member United Nations inquiry commission concluded its investigation into the Benazir Bhutto assassination. The commission was highly critical of the "pervasive role" played by the ISI and concluded that not only did authorities fail to provide Bhutto security but elements within the military may have played a role in her assassination. It is a pity that the compulsions of political survival have forced the government to disown the findings of the report.

# # #

About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation that monitors human rights in Asia, documents violations and advocates for justice and institutional reform to ensure the protection and promotion of these rights. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.

ENDS

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
World Headlines

 

Preliminary Results: MH17 Investigation Report

The Joint Investigation Team (JIT) is convinced of having obtained irrefutable evidence to establish that on 17 July 2014, flight MH-17 was shot down by a BUK missile from the 9M38-series. According to the JIT there is also evidence identifying the launch location that involves an agricultural field near Pervomaiskyi which, at the time, was controlled by pro-Russian fighters. More>>

ALSO:

At The UN: Paris Climate Agreement Moves Closer To Entry Into Force

The Paris Agreement on climate change moved closer toward entering into force in 2016 as 31 more countries joined the agreement today at a special event hosted by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. More>>

ALSO:

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On The End Game In Spain (And Other World News)

The coverage of international news seems almost entirely dependent on a random selection of whatever some overseas news agency happens to be carrying overnight... Here are a few interesting international stories that have largely flown beneath the radar this past week. More>>

Amnesty/Human Rights Watch: Appalling Abuse, Neglect Of Refugees On Nauru

Refugees and asylum seekers on Nauru, most of whom have been held there for three years, routinely face neglect by health workers and other service providers who have been hired by the Australian government, as well as frequent unpunished assaults by local Nauruans. More>>

ALSO:

Other Australian Detention

Gordon Campbell: On The Censorship Havoc In South Africa’s State Broadcaster

Demands have included an order to staff that there should be no further negative news about the country’s President Jacob Zuma, and SABC camera operators responsible for choosing camera angles that have allegedly made the President ‘look shorter’ were to be retrained... More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On A Bad Week For Malcolm Turnbull, And The Queen

Malcolm Turnbull’s immediate goal – mere survival – is still within his grasp... In every other respect though, this election has been a total disaster for the Liberals. More>>

ALSO:

Get More From Scoop

 
 
 
 
 
World
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news