IT is a matter of concern that yet another journalist has been attacked in the capital city, which has been described as the most dangerous place for mediapersons in the country. Asad Ali Toor was attacked by unknown assailants, who thrashed him inside his apartment in Islamabad’s Sector F-11. Mr Toor later uploaded a video in which he said that the attackers had demanded information about the “source” of his “funds”. In recent years, the modus operandi of those intimidating journalists has become more brazen.
There might still be warnings, calls for explanations or threatening messages but now, the quarters who want critical voices silenced have gone one step further and demonstrated that they have no qualms about ‘disappearing’ journalists or subjecting them to brutal assault in broad daylight outside their homes or in some other part of the city.
According to the latest report put together by the media watchdog Freedom Network, there has been a 40pc increase in attacks on journalists over the past year. Only last month, senior journalist Absar Alam was shot at while strolling outside his house in the F-11 sector of the capital. Last year in July, senior journalist Matiullah Jan was kidnapped from outside his home in G-6 in broad daylight. He was lucky to be released 12 hours later after vociferous protests from the journalist community and human rights bodies.
Read: Media in chains: The cost of speaking truth to power in South Asia
All this is happening under the watchful eye of a democratically elected state and its law-enforcement apparatus. Why is the government so hesitant to issue regular warnings that silencing criticism in this way will simply not be tolerated? It is appalling that the latest attack should have occurred soon after the detailed Protection for Journalists and Media Professionals Bill, 2021 was tabled in the National Assembly. The provisions aim to ensure the independence of journalists and let them work without fear of intimidation and harassment. Once the bill is passed, will the government ensure the law’s enforcement in letter and spirit?
Published in Dawn, May 27th, 2021