Mindset of intolerance: Pak President’s letter to PM Sharif on ‘torture of journalists’

Pakistan President Dr Arif Alvi has written to PM Shehbaz Sharif about the alleged incidents of violence against journalists and human rights abuses under his government. This comes against the backdrop of the police arresting prominent journalist Imran Riaz Khan, a vocal critic of the government and a supporter of ousted Prime Minister Imran Khan.

In his strongly-worded, seven-point letter to PM Sharif, accessed by indiatoday.in, Dr Arif Alvi expressed his “alarm and deep concern on the rising trend of harassment and torture against journalists and media persons in Pakistan”.

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“Recent events of violence against journalists reflect a mindset of intolerance, which has negative repercussions both on the future of democracy as well as freedom of expression as guaranteed by Article 19 in our constitution. Besides creating fear in Pakistan, such actions also come under international focus and tarnish the image of our country,” he wrote.

The president also highlighted his country’s position on the Freedom of Press Index 2022. “Pakistan stands at 157th position in the Freedom of Press Index-2022. Reporters Without Borders (RSF), Human Rights Watch (HRW), Amnesty International (AI), and the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) in their reports have attributed harassment, intimidation, and physical violence against journalists as the main reasons for the dismal position of Pakistan in the said index,” he said.

“Journalists in Pakistan are subjected to charges of sedition and terrorism to stifle dissent and criticism against the powerful elements of the state. The actions being taken also undermine the efforts of the judiciary, when in one jurisdiction relief is provided cases are filed in another jurisdiction with mala fide intention to continue harassment. It appears that a reign of terror has been unleashed against the media persons who have independent opinions.”

Drawing the PM’s attention to the duties of a president as enshrined in the country’s constitution, Dr Alvi said: “In terms of Article 41 of the Constitution of Pakistan, the President should endeavor to protect the fundamental rights of freedom of speech and fair trial for all citizens. Pakistan being a democratic country, should not allow oppression and persecution of intelligentsia and journalists. In reality such actions must be considered abhorrent in a progressive society.”

“Law enforcement agencies may be directed to ensure the protection of journalists and media persons. In this regard, politicians across the aisle should also play their role to save the journalists from the highhandedness of unknown and unscrupulous elements. I would like to be informed of the remedial actions taken as per article 46 of our Constitution.”

“Among those killed were Mr. Aziz Memon and Mr. Nazim Jokhio. Mr. Matiullah Jan was abducted in broad daylight from a busy area of Islamabad. Mr. Asad Ali Toor and Mr. Absar Alam were assaulted and injured by unidentified men. Mr. 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 have been registered against Mr. Sami Ibrahim, Mr. Arshad Sharif, Mr. Sabir Shakir, Mr. Imran Riaz Khan and Mr. Moeed Pirzada at various Police Stations in a number of cities across the country,” the President wrote, listing the names of journalists who have been kidnapped from the country, killed or arrested in recent times.

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