May 27th, 2021

By Rehan Piracha 


Federal Minister Information Minister Fawad Chaudhary on Wednesday said that certain journalists in the past have blamed the military and institutions only on pretext of getting political asylum and immigration to foreign countries.

The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists, Reporters Sans Frontier and other journalists reacted strongly to the minister’s insinuations saying that the statement reflected that the government was showing no seriousness in investigating cases of violence against journalists and media professionals.

Fawad Chaudhary made the remarks in the news show Spotlight, on May 26 when he was asked by journalist Munizae Jahangir about looking into allegations against a single state institution of impunity towards journalists in the country.

Journalist Asad Toor in his statement to police stated that the three assailants who attacked him in his apartment told him that they worked for the intelligence agency.

The minister accepted the assertion made by Munizae Jahangirt that previous reports about attacks on journalists Hamid Mir and Hidayat Ullah had not been made public by the government.

“I support that all reports relating to attacks on journalists should be made public as real problems arise when such events don’t reach a conclusion,” said Fawad Chaudhry.

The minister said these incidents led to a distrust in the justice system. He said the present government, headed by Prime Minister Imran Khan, did not believe in keeping reports secret.

Former generals are living abroad not journalists: Hamid Mir

Responding to the minister’s claim that certain journalists blame state institutions to seek political asylum abroad, Hamid Mir termed the minister’s remarks unfortunate.

“I would like to ask the minister why senior military officials like Gen Musharraf are living abroad?” Mir asked. The minister would not be able to answer as to who is funding Musharraf’s stay abroad or why most of the top intelligence officials get lucrative jobs outside Pakistan after retirement, he added.

“I think that people like Musharraf were more loyal to outsiders than Pakistan that’s why he is spending the rest of his life outside Pakistan,” he said.

Hamid Mir said he had declined an offer of political asylum abroad after surviving an assassination attempt in Karachi.

“I blamed Gen Zaheer for the attack, if he was innocent why did he never appear before the inquiry commission,” Mir said, adding that if he was wrong about his claim why did the inquiry commission never released any report.

Mir said that as a journalist he chose to remain in the country, refusing lucrative offers. “It was easy for me to get a job outside Pakistan. I was offered to write a book on that issue and make millions of dollars but I declined. I never went outside because I am not Gen Musharraf I am journalist Hamid Mir,” he said.

‘State of denial’

Similarly, Nasir Zaidi, General Secretary of Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists, said the minister’s claim was an age-old tactic of shifting blame. “In Gen Zia’s martial regime, journalists fighting for the freedom of the press were often accused of being agents of the Pakistan Peoples Party,” he told Zaidi said the minister’s statement reflects that the present government is in denial of attacks against journalists in the country. He said the government should present details that how many of such journalists have taken political asylum. “There have been scores of cases of attacks and abduction of journalists in the country and most of them are still in the country,” he said.

Zaidi said the present government should constitute an independent commission to investigate cases of attacks on journalists in its tenure so that those tarnishing the image of state institutions should be exposed once for all.

“The present government should constitute an independent commission to at least investigate cases of journalists like Matiullah Jan, Absar Alam and Asad Toor that happened in their tenure,” he said.

Zaidi said the PFUJ has called for nation-wide demonstrations on Friday to protest the assault on Asad Toor and other journalists.

‘Remarks equal to victim shaming’

Matiullah Jan said Fawad Chaudhary’s statement was tantamount to victim shaming. “The statement also reminds me of similar remarks by former military ruler Gen Pervez Musharraf in the case of gangrape victim Mukhtaran Mai,” he said.

He said the minister should ponder on why many Pakistanis were forced to seek political asylum abroad due to threats to their lives.

Asked about the police investigation into the recent attack on Asad Toor in Islamabad, he said that it was unlikely that the police investigations would lead to any conclusion.

“The police hands are tied as in all previous cases the CCTV and Safe City camera footage has failed to identify the attackers,” he pointed out.

RSF calls out minister

Iqbal Khattak, Pakistan representative of Reporters Sans Frontier, condemned the minister’s remarks. “This statement is like putting salt on one’s wounds,” he said.

“Such a statement was also made by former military ruler Gen Musharraf who said “women get raped” to get asylum after Mukhtaran Mai rape case made international headlines,” he said. The minister spoke the military’s language which he should avoid, Khattak added.

Assailants had snatched Toor’s cell phone

Speaking in Spotlight, Toor said the assailants had taken away his cell phone. He said the police was treating the incident as simply that of intrusion and theft. “The FIR reflected that I had a quarrel in my home,” he said.

Toor said the members of the Journalists Defence Committee, which have offered to be his legal counsel, protested to the head of the investigation team that the FIR was not based on the statement that I made to the police.

“The Senior Superintendent of Police assured them that this would be corrected in the supplementary FIR,” he said. The investigation team is headed by SP Saddar with DSPs Special Branch and Ramna Ciricle as well as Shalimar SHO its members.

According to the police, the team will work under the supervision of SSP investigation. It will use all scientific and forensic methods including CCTV footage and Safe City cameras to trace the culprits involved in the incident.