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Report by Haider Kaleem

It has been over two months since multiple journalists together with staff members of Jang Group have been staging protests in multiple cities against the arrest of editor-in-chief for Geo News and Jang Group, Mir Shakeel-ur-Rehman, by the State. Mir Shakeel-ur-Rehman’s arrest is widely regarded by journalists and rights advocates an attempt by the government to censor media and curb critical, dissenting voices.

On May 18, however, protesters in Rawalpindi were sent a warning when some unknown, plainclothes individuals berated activists and even threw bullet cartridges into the crowd before fleeing. The journalist community, although taken aback, has strongly voiced its denouncement of the blatant threat. General Secretary of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), Nasir Zaidi, has said the incident proves that despite the reign of democracy, the government is adopting authoritarian attitudes to silence voices.

“To protest is the right of every individual,” he said. “The incident at the May 18 protest was meant to provoke, that in a country where the press is already facing incredible obstacles, resorting to such measures to intimidate journalists should be vilified.”

Aizaz Saeed, a senior journalist at the Jang Group, expressed his befuddlement over who could possibly be threatened by the journalists’ protests.

“The May 18 incident is regrettable, embarrassing even,” he said. “Moreover, the police have so far been unable to find any clue as to the identity and whereabouts of the people who threatened the protest.”

“The government may be one entity with any objections to the protest,” Aizaz Saeed added. “But I doubt that the government would resort to such intimidation tactics. Whether it was the government behind this, or some individual or group, powerful people or otherwise… we can only know for sure if the investigation into the matter is carried out. But the police have turned up with nothing, and none of the traffic cameras in that area were functioning. There is not enough known to say anything for certain.”

When reaching out to Rawalpindi police regarding the investigation into the incident at the Rawalpindi protest, voicepk.net’s calls went unanswered.