May 12, 2023
Police produced media person Aftab Iqbal, who on May 11 was taken into custody under section 3 of the Maintenance of Public Order (MPO) Ordinance, before the Lahore High Court (LHC) today.
The court suspended orders to arrest Iqbal issued by Deputy Commissioner Lahore and directed the Inspector General of Police (IGP) Punjab to produce him before the court. Appearing before the bench, the court ordered his immediate release, as well as the release of journalist, Imran Riaz Khan, who was also apprehended under the same provision of the MPO Ordinance the same day.
Riaz was apprehended at Sialkot International Airport while attempting to board a flight to Oman.
These arrests came two days following the arrest of PTI chair and former Prime Minister Imran Khan on May 9, which sparked countrywide violent protests.
In Peshawar, a mob entered the building of Radio Pakistan and torched it down.
The authorities launched a crackdown against PTI workers and supporters, arresting well over 1,600 people, including the party’s top leadership.
The Federal Government also suspended the mobile internet service in the entire country.
Muzzling of media condemned
Meanwhile, the Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors (CPNE) condemned in the strongest terms the arrest of journalists. President CPNE Kazim Khan in a statement said that the Council, in its media freedom report, highlighted a number of times such attempts to punish journalists for expressing their views.
“Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on the organisers of these protests, as well as the civilian and military authorities, to allow journalists to work freely and in a spirit of respect for pluralism,”
said the statement.
It is absolutely crucial that journalists should be able to work without constraint in order to provide their fellow citizens and the world with reliable, freely-reported and independent news coverage. We call on the leaders of Imran Khan’s party to give clear instructions to their rank and file to respect press freedom. At the same time, we urge Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s civilian government and Chief of Army Staff Asim Munir to respect the diversity of opinions and to allow the media to cover these historic events.”
The RSF highlighted “wrecked studios, burned microphones, and tape recordings gone up in smoke”, in the state-owned Radio Pakistan station in Peshawar, on May 10.
It also condemned how the reporters trying to cover the protests in Peshawar were attacked by protesters. The satellite transmission vehicles of Dawn News TV, Aaj News, Khyber News, and Express News were subjected to rock-throwing and baton attacks.
The Dawn News TV truck was badly damaged and one of its occupants, journalist Arif Hayat, was injured by flying glass. Express News reporter Vishal Khan was among those attacked by protesters.
Blockage of Internet services
The RSF also called out how the citizens were left without basic internet services, as social media was blocked and there was a drastic slowdown of broadband services.
The army has been deployed on major routes throughout the capital, in major cities, blocking access to journalists.