ISLAMABAD: President Dr Arif Alvi, a remnant of the former ruling party, on Thursday wrote a letter to Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Thursday expressing “deep concern” over recent incidents of “harassment” of journalists, terming them a “spate against the freedom of expression”.

In his letter, the president urged the prime minister to take immediate remedial action and asked the security agencies to provide protection to the journalists.

In the letter shared via the president of Pakistan’s Twitter account, he alleged that “abhorrent pressure is being put on journalists for voicing their independent opinion and criticism. Arrests, beatings [and] harassment, including cases of sedition, are designed to create fear and terror”.

“The recent incidents of violence against journalists reflect a mindset of intolerance that would have negative repercussions on democracy’s future and freedom of expression in the country,” the president said.

Interestingly, while highlighting such incidents, Dr Alvi also mentioned the killing of journalists Aziz Memon and Nazim Jokhio, the “abduction” of Matiullah Jan, the manhandling of Asad Toor and an attack on former Pemra chairman Absar Alam, perhaps forgetting that all these incidents took place when his own party was in power.

Dr Alvi, however, also referred to some incidents that took place after the change of regime in April, stating that “Ayaz Amir was attacked, humiliated and bruised by unknown persons on the road during rush hours in the presence of many eyewitnesses in Lahore. Multiple FIRs (first information report) have been registered against Sami Ibrahim, Arshad Sharif, Sabir Shakir, Imran Riaz Khan and Moeed Pirzada at various police stations in a number of cities across the country”.

Dr Alvi said Pakistan stood at the 157th position in the Freedom of Press Index, 2022, and numerous international organisations had attributed “harassment, intimidation and physical violence against journalists as the main reasons for the dismal position of Pakistan in the said index”.

“Besides creating fear in Pakistan, such actions also come under international focus and tarnish the image of our country,” he added.

Published in Dawn, July 8th, 2022

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