QUETTA, July 8: A workshop on ‘Media and Civil Society in Balochistan’ was informed on Sunday that the media in Balochistan was not free and journalists on professional duty often faced harassment at the hands of influential elements and different pressure groups active in the province.
According to figures presented at the workshop, at least 22 journalists have been killed in the province during the past four years.
The Centre for Research and Security Studies (CRSS) had organised the workshop in collaboration with the Association for Integrated Development.
CRSS executive director Imtiaz Gul said journalists faced challenges and difficulties in reporting and it was the duty of the state and non-state forces to spare the media from their rivalries and not to subject them to intimidation.
He praised the media for working in difficult circumstances and paid homage to media people who lost their lives while performing their duty.
Addressing the workshop, Quetta Press Club general secretary Abdul Khaliq Rind said the entire province had become a battleground.
“You cannot look at media’s work in isolation. You cannot write about any group. It is very difficult for all of us,” he said.
He said that decades of discrimination had resulted in intellectual and economic backwardness of the province.
Khalil Ahmed of DawnNews said: “We don’t have access to information. We cannot even report corruption cases.”Journalists, he said, had been sandwiched between corrupt officials and extremist groups because they faced threats from both if they reported about their wrongdoings.
He said that because of the geographical importance of the region international and regional powers were active in Balochistan to protect their interests.
Irfan Rana of the Express Group said: “Whenever journalists report something, pressure groups ask them to amend it and warn them of dire consequences if their ‘orders’ are not obeyed.”
Irshad Mastoi of Online news agency said: “All resistance movements approach us for coverage and political parties and some institutions consider the media as a resistance group.”
He accused political leaders of forcing reporters to cover their ‘press releases’.
Shahid Rind of ARY TV said the media faced pressures from powerful institutions, political leaders, militants and criminals.
“We get diktat from all stakeholders, so we cannot follow journalistic rules and face threats and censure,” he said, adding “there are red lines and we cannot dare to be objective in reporting”.
Abdullah Baloch of WASH TV said objective reporting was the biggest challenge as all forces put pressure and journalists could not report objectively.
Even NGOs and trade unions put pressure on journalists to file reports in accordance with their instructions, he said, adding that no journalist was secure in Balochistan.
Akbar Sheikh said if jobs were given to thousands of unemployed graduates in Balochistan it would help make society tolerant.
Dr Ishaq Baloch of the National Party, senior journalist Shehzada Zulfiqar, Liaquat Ali, Aslam Baloch, Arshad Jan and Hammad Sanjrani also spoke.