28th May 2021

Staff Report


Journalists and civil rights activists held demonstrations in major cities on Friday, May 28, to condemn the attack on fellow journalist Asad Toor on the call of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ).

In Islamabad, the protest demonstration was held outside the National Press Club where a large number of protesters held banners and chanted slogans to call for the early arrest of the perpetrators of the assault. Asad Toor also participated in the demonstration. The protesters chanted slogans against rising cases of violence against journalists as well as curbs on the freedom of the press.

‘Disinformation campaign launched to downplay attack’

Addressing the participants, Toor regretted that a disinformation campaign has been launched to downplay the attack on him.

Responding to a recent video blog by Lt-Gen (R) Amjad Shoaib, Toor said the police team should begin its investigation by summoning the retired general to provide evidence he mentions in his blog that led to the attack on him.

“It’s essential that the evidence of the tale spun by Gen (R) Amjad Shoiab is brought forward so that culprits are arrested,” Toor said. He said the assailants identified themselves as belonging to the Inter-Services Intelligence. “If it is not the ISI, the investigation should reveal those behind the attack,” he added.

Toor said the attacks on journalists have turned into a joke in the country.

“They say the brothers of a journalist’s girlfriend carried out the attack but neither the brothers nor the girlfriend has ever come forward,” he said. “The investigation team has not yet once approached me after the attack.”

Toor also revealed that his parents had again been harassed in Sargodha.

“Officials in a black car approached my parents saying they were security officials,” he said.

Toor also took offence to the statement of Federal Information Minister Fawad Chaudhary that journalists in Pakistan blame state institutions to seek political asylum abroad.

“The Information Minister must know that the Lahore High Court has absolved me in the groundless case of defaming the military,” he said, adding that he did not seek political asylum at the time of the case. “Why would I try to seek political asylum now?”

Toor said that the government was taking offence that he directly mentioned the intelligence agency.

”The government should catch the culprits tarnishing the image of a state institution,” he said, adding that the authorities were busy victim-shaming instead of supporting aggrieved journalists.

‘Journalists need no lessons in patriotism’

Journalist Munizae Jahangir said journalists were being murdered and attacked in the country for many years.

“Journalists in Balochistan were killed in their homes and offices,” she said. “Irshad Mastoi (a journalist from Balochistan) was shot dead by assassins in his office. I must tell those who are trying to impart lessons in patriotism to journalists that if we start narrating their deeds they would have nowhere to hide.”

In her address, PML-N’s Maryam Aurangzeb said the attack was a shameful incident, saying that “It’s very unfortunate that citizens have been deprived of their right of freedom of expression.”

In Lahore, the PFUJ organised a similar demonstration at the Lahore Press Club. Journalists and activists participated in the protest.

‘Protests will expose hidden hands’

Addressing the participants, Hina Jilani, chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), said the demonstration was not just about a single journalist but about scores of other journalists who lost their lives or were targeted in Punjab, Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Sindh.

“We are warning them that journalists and activists have lost patience over such attacks,” she said.

The HRCP chief said journalists across the country were targeted for speaking the truth.

“The issue now is not of the freedom of the press alone but that of freedom of expression of every citizen and human dignity,” Jilani said. “If they think that the matter will fizzle out after a protest then I must tell them that our every demonstration is a step towards exposing hidden hands.”

Activist Professor Dr. Ammar Ali Jan also addressed the demonstration.

“Journalists should now take a lead role along with other oppressed segments in society to resist this government that has turned into a gangster-state,” he said.  The participants called upon the government to arrest the perpetrators and bring this vicious cycle of violence against journalists to an end.