Rights committee calls for protection of Pakistani journalists

A militant religious group in Pakistan are threatening two journalists for uncovering a private detention center run by a the group. The families of the journalists have also received death threats.

According to the Asia Human Rights Commission, here is a summary of what happened:

CASE NARRATIVE:

Mr. Ghulamuddin, senior producer and Mohammad Aatif Khan, associate producer/news, Samaa TV aired an exclusive report on December 13, 2011 on the captivity of innocent students in chains at a seminary which jolted the media and concerned authorities. The subsequent crackdown by police led to the rescue of over fifty persons who were shackled in a basement. Dozens of children were recovered from a separate room. The illegal and private detention center and torture cell was operated under the name of ”Rehabilitation Center for Heroin addicts” where the people from 4 to 50 years of age were detained and punished for not following the orders of the detention center staff. The guards of the detention center claimed that they were running an Islamic seminary (Madressa).

Both the producers made the video through a concealed camera which was then aired in the evening of the same day and generated a heated debate among officials, diplomatic circles, human rights groups and civil society. The illegal detention center in the name of Dar-ul-Uloom Zakria Kandholi, an Islamic seminary, was run by a cleric, Mufti Dawood, the principal of the seminary, which was located on the outskirts of Karachi, the capital of Sindh province. The video shows how detained persons were kept in heavy chains. They complained that they were beaten daily and were not given proper food whereas their parents were paying huge amounts as monthly fees. Some students were provided with armed training and also to become suicide bombers and some were sent for holy war to Afghanistan against the US forces

Since the airing of the video, the two journalists and their families have received death threats.

In a January 26 update on the situation, the AHRC reported

The latest development in the case is that Mr.Gulamuddin, who is hiding with his wife Tasleem Bano and Hayyan Shah Alisher (six month old infant) and Mohammad Aatif khan with his wife Sajjal Atif Khan have both left their homes as the militants attacked their houses and threatened their parents, siblings and neighbours at gunpoint to disclose their whereabouts or else face the same fate planned for the producers. They are also receiving death threats through SMS and phone calls due to which they have stopped using them. They are not even allowed to go to the police station and file a report against the culprits. Their movements are being monitored all the times.

Pakistan remains the most dangerous place for journalists.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, seven journalists were killed specifically because of their work. Another 42 journalists were killed but the CPJ could not determine the reasons for the murders.

The AHRC notes that journalists can expect little help from the authorities.

The network of extremist groups is very strong and it is no exaggeration to say that they are more powerful than the security agencies, including the Pakistan Army whose General Head Quarter (GHQ) was attacked by these groups. It is these same militant groups who were responsible for the assassinations of the Governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer and the Federal Minister for Religious Minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti both in 2011

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Filed under Corruption, Harassment, Press Freedom

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