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International rights groups express concern over recent attacks on Pakistani journalists

ANI | Updated: Jun 04, 2021 14:12 IST


Kabul [Afghanistan], June 4 (ANI): Three international rights groups on Thursday voiced grave concern at the recent attacks on journalists in Pakistan and mounting pressure on scribes critical of the Imran Khan-led government.
Human Rights Watch (HRW), Amnesty International and the International Commission of Jurists called for prompt prosecution of those suspected of criminal responsibility, reported Pajhwok Afghan News.
In a joint statement, they asked the Pakistan government to conduct prompt, impartial and effective investigations into recent attacks on journalists and urged the government to abolish official policies that protect the authorities from criticism.
The organisations asked the government to promote space for public debate and free expression in the face of threats from extremist groups and government functionaries.
"The frequency and audacity with which journalists are being attacked in Pakistan is appalling. The Pakistani authorities should bring those responsible for these attacks to justice..." said Brad Adams, HRW's Asia director.
Last month, an Islamabad-based journalist Asad Ali Toor, known for criticism of the country's establishment, was attacked in Pakistan's capital. The attackers broke into his house and attacked him brutally.
Last year, the authorities had charged Toor with sedition for comments on social media "maligning state institutions". A court later dismissed the charges, reported Pajhwok Afghan News.

Prior to that, an unidentified assailant shot and wounded Absar Alam, a television journalist and a prominent critic of the government, outside his house in Islamabad.
Sam Zarifi, secretary general of the International Commission of Jurists. said: "It is disturbing to see the space for dissent and providing information of public importance rapidly shrink in Pakistan, with journalists as well as human rights defenders particularly at risk of censorship, physical violence, and arbitrary detention."
According to Pajhwok, the three organisations noted that Pakistani journalists had long faced serious obstacles to their work, including harassment, intimidation, assault, arbitrary arrest and detention, abduction, and death.
Hamid Mir, the host of the flagship news program "Capital Talk", was taken off the air for three days after he spoke against the rising curbs on freedom of expression in the country and about the safety of his colleagues, following the recent attack on Toor.
Other media outlets have come under pressure from authorities not to criticise government institutions or the judiciary.
A group of leading women journalists had issued a statement last year condemning a well-defined and coordinated campaign of social media attacks, including death and rape threats against women journalists and commentators whose reporting has been critical of the government.
"If the authorities are committed to uphold their human rights obligations, they must take decisive steps against censorship, harassment and violence against journalists," said Dinushika Dissanayake, South Asia deputy regional director at Amnesty International.
In 2020, Pakistan ranked ninth on the Committee to Protect Journalist's annual Global Impunity Index, with at least 15 unsolved killings of journalists since 2010.
In December last year, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) in a 'White Paper on Global Journalism' listed five countries, including Pakistan as the 'Most Dangerous Countries for Practice of Journalism in the World'. As many as 138 journalists have been killed in Pakistan since 1990. (ANI)

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