Pakistan: Attack on TV station highlights perils facing freedom of expression
The grenade attack on the offices of ARY TV in Islamabad represents yet another strike against freedom of expression in Pakistan, underscoring the growing peril faced by media workers in the course of their work, Amnesty International said today.
Two attackers riding a motorcycle threw a grenade and reportedly fired gunshots at the ARY TV offices late on Wednesday. A video editor at the station was injured by shrapnel from the blast.
This is the latest, depressing addition to a series of brazen attacks in which media workers in Pakistan have been targeted for doing their jobs.
“This is the latest, depressing addition to a series of brazen attacks in which media workers in Pakistan have been targeted for doing their jobs,” said Champa Patel, Director of Amnesty International’s South Asia Regional Office.
Pamphlets left at the scene said the attack had been carried out by Islamic State Wilayah Khurasan, an armed group that claims allegiance to the armed group calling itself Islamic State (IS), in retaliation for ARY TV’s reporting of Pakistani military offensives.
“Pakistani media workers can now add being bombed at their desks to a list of occupational hazards that already includes abduction, arbitrary arrest and detention, intimidation, killings, and harassment by state and non-state actors,” Champa Patel said.
“The purpose of these attacks is to intimidate and censor the press as a whole, cracking down on freedom of expression.”
Within the last two months, Islamic State Wilayah Khurasan has claimed responsibility for attacks on the offices of Dunya TV in Faisalabad in November 2015, and Din News in Lahore in December 2015. In total, at least two media workers were killed and six injured in connection to their work in 2015.
Media workers and journalists also face harassment and intimidation from state actors in Pakistan.
The attack on the ARY office comes a day after Pakistan’s paramilitary Rangers force entered and conducted a warrantless search of a New York Times journalist’s home in Islamabad. The government alleged the raid on Salman Masood’s home was part of a larger search operation in the area, but it has since emerged that only a couple of other houses in that neighbourhood were searched.
The Interior Minister ordered an inquiry into the search operation later the same day. Even so, the incident entailed not just an infringement to the journalist’s right to privacy but could also be perceived as a tactic to intimidate him for his work, a lot of which has included writing about current government and military policies.
Amnesty International urges the authorities to conduct a thorough, prompt and transparent investigation into this and other attacks against media workers and journalists, and to bring those responsible to account. The authorities must also ensure adequate protection to media workers, journalists and their families facing threats and attacks due to their legitimate work, while ensuring their independence.