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CPJ calls for release of journalist Gohar Wazir detained with PTM workers in Bannu

May 29, 2019

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In a statement issued on May 28, the Committee to Protect Journalists said that Gohar Wazir, a reporter working with the private TV station Khyber News, should be "immediately and unconditionally" released by the authorities. — Photo courtesy Gohar Wazir Facebook
In a statement issued on May 28, the Committee to Protect Journalists said that Gohar Wazir, a reporter working with the private TV station Khyber News, should be "immediately and unconditionally" released by the authorities. — Photo courtesy Gohar Wazir Facebook

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has urged Pakistan to immediately release journalist Gohar Wazir who was among a group of at least 22 people detained in Bannu on Monday.

Gohar and 21 others were detained under Section 3 of the Maintenance of Public Order Ordinance and sent to a jail in Haripur on Tuesday after PTM and Awami National Party workers protested the Kharqamar checkpost incident that took place in North Waziristan on Sunday.

Three people were killed and 15 others ─ including five soldiers ─ were injured in an exchange of fire when the Kharqamar checkpost was attacked during a protest led by MNAs Mohsin Dawar and Ali Wazir in which PTM members were also participating. Ali Wazir and eight others were arrested, while Dawar, who had sustained a minor injury, fled.

In a statement issued on May 28, the New-York based international organisation that advocates for the rights of journalists, said that Khyber News reporter Gohar Wazir, who was arrested from Bannu on Tuesday, had interviewed MNA Mohsin Dawar a day prior.

"Gohar Wazir should not have to face arrest merely for doing the job of reporting the news, even reporting on controversial events such as protests by the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement," the statement quoted CPJ Asia program coordinator Steven Butler as saying.

"Restrictions on Pakistan's media only serve to undermine the strength of Pakistan's democracy," Butler added.

The CPJ said Gohar should be "immediately and unconditionally" released by the authorities.

Additionally, the CPJ statement said that while PTM rallies had drawn huge crowds, as per reports, news coverage has been scant.

"Journalists who asked to remain anonymous due to security concerns told CPJ that the military has applied pressure not to report on the movement, which the military sees as a challenge to its authority," the statement read.

According to the CPJ statement, the Pakhtun Journalists Association also issued a statement condemning Wazir's arrest. They termed his arrest as an "attack on journalism".

CPJ added that an email for a comment from the Ministry of Information was not immediately answered.