August 22, 2020 

                                         By: Umar Bacha


Police have registered a case against two reporters for armed assault and obstruction of justice in the Shangla district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

The reporters were covering a protest against the custodial death of a suspect in the Maa Karora police station. Earlier also journalists and rights activists have raised concern over increased police highhandedness and intimidation against media persons. The suspect had died in lockup after being arrested in a narcotics case last month. Relatives and rights activists had protested against the death and a murder case was registered against a sub-inspector, Naseeb Shah, of the police station.

Meanwhile, the reporters against whom the cases were filed were covering the protest held by the victim’s relatives and activists against the protocol provided to the accused police official upon arrival in the court.

“I was covering the protest so maybe they (police) were unhappy with the media spotlight,” Niaz Ahmed, one of the reporters nominated in the case, told Ahmed works for two local papers and also runs social media pages. The second reporter, Ata-Ur-Rehman, said he was the first media person to arrive on the spot. He said that as a media person it was his duty to cover public protests and highlight human rights abuses. The police nominated him in the case and were conducting raids to arrest him.

Police have accused the protesters of attempting to attack police personnel, but the protesters said that their demonstration had been peaceful. Members of the Shangla jirga came to the spot and held negotiations with the district police officer, according to one of the victim’s relatives who were part of the demonstration. The negotiations were successful and the jirga members told protesters that their demands of the DSP’s transfer and suspension of four cops have been met. He said the protesters dispersed peacefully.  The next day, he said, they came to know that the police had registered a case against 200 protesters and 26 were nominated in the FIR. Seventeen members of his family were named in the case, he added. Some of the accused have secured bail while police were conducting raids to arrest others.

According to the FIR, the reporters and protesters were charged with road blockade, interference in the affairs of the State, obstruction of justice, hindering police personnel from the performance of their duties under sections 506,353,341,186,160,189,147,148 and 149 of the penal code.

Shangla District Police Officer Asif Ghafoor refused to comment on the situation, saying the case was registered against protesters for blocking the roads.

But senior journalist Zameer Haider has called for media bodies to protest against the high handed attitude of the police against reporters. He urged the provincial minister to take note of the incident.