LAHORE: The new standard operating procedures (SOPs) of imposing a ban on video recording and photography at all the police offices and police stations of Punjab has made the job more challenging for the journalists who termed it an attempt to put curbs on their professional work.

The SOPs were issued by Inspector General of Punjab Police retired Capt Arif Nawaz on Tuesday who directed the police officers to enforce these in letter and spirit.

Under the new SOPs (a copy available with Dawn), the devices (cameras, mobile phones, etc) of the visitors could be seized in case they film or record any activity on the premises of an office or police station without seeking prior permission from the competent authority.

In the letter issued to senior police officers (CCPOs, RPOs and DPOs) on Aug 22, the IG has also ordered lodging of criminal cases against the violators of the ban.

The new SOPs were issued after the electronic media recently showed some shocking footage of third-degree torture of citizens at various police stations of Punjab.

Titled “SOP regarding prevention of video recording and photography without permission” reads, “We have come to know that some irrelevant people tried to spoil image of police by making recording or footages at some police stations of Punjab”.

Keeping in view such media coverage, the police officials are required to implement the new SOPs in letter and spirit, the IGP says.

“A complete ban has been imposed at all the police stations of Punjab on use of mobile phones, laptops, cameras and any other device without prior approval from the competent authorities”, it says.

The latter also says that the officers should keep an eye on the visitors bringing cameras hidden in glasses, buttons, pen or any other device into the police stations. These instructions, fear the journalists, especially reporters working for the electronic media, will put further curbs on their professional work.

Practically, the IGPs new SOPs have fully empowered the Punjab police to curb the media by restricting professional work of the field journalists, says Punjab Union of Journalists (PUJ), expressing grave concern at the IG’s direction and for the safety of field journalists, who it says were already working under immense pressure and in some cases threats from police.

The body has termed the SOPs “an attempt to target field reporters visiting police stations becoming voice of the oppressed people against the injustices they suffer at the hands of police”.

The PUJ, which has also given a call for protest against the new SOPs, has demanded withdrawal of the controversial directions in the best interest of the journalists.

IG Arif Nawaz, talking to Dawn dispelled an impression that the SOPs were meant to put curbs on the media persons.

He said the actual purpose of the new SOPs was to sensitise the police and educate the public about the security challenges the law enforcement agencies had been facing recently.

“We want to protect police stations and the sensitive installations in the wake of the recent wave of terrorism”, he said, adding that the misinterpretation of the SOPs had created confusions which should be addressed.

Published in Dawn, August 24th, 2017

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