Pakistani journalist attacked in latest attack on press freedom Media news

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Islamabad, Pakistan – Three unidentified men have attacked a prominent Pakistani journalist after breaking into his apartment, according to the journalist, his lawyer and the police, in what appears to be the latest incident of violence against press freedom in the southern country. Asian.

Journalist Asad Ali Toor said in a statement to police that the attack took place at approximately 23:00 (18:00 GMT) on Tuesday when he heard the ringing of his apartment in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad. .

“[The person at the door] he pointed a gun at him and said you should take a step back, “said Haider Imtiaz, Toor’s lawyer and a member of the Journalistic Defense Committee of the Pakistan Bar Council.

“It simply came to our notice then [the attacker] He shouted that if you don’t take a step back, I’ll shoot you. “

Toor was dragged to his bedroom where he was tied up, gagged and beaten by the attacker and two others who had entered with him, according to Toor’s statement.

“They threw me to the ground and told me not to make any sound so they would shoot me,” the statement says.

“[One of the attackers] He started hitting me repeatedly on the elbows with the tip of the gun. […] I tried to shout, but no sound came out. “

Toor says the attackers identified themselves as members of the Service Intelligence Agency (ISI), the Pakistani military intelligence service, which has been accused by rights groups of participating in enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings. in the past.

The Pakistani army’s press wing offered no comment on the allegation.

Toor said he was questioned about the sources of his income and “funding” and was forced to shout slogans praising Pakistan, its military and the ISI, as well as denouncing Pakistan’s eastern neighbor, India, the northwestern neighbor, Afghanistan and Israel.

Police spokeswoman Zia Bajwa confirmed the attack and said the investigation was ongoing. Toor video footage taken by reporters at the government hospital where he was treated showed him limping and with visible blood on the sleeves of his shirt.

Increased attack on journalists

Pakistan ranks 145 out of 180 countries in the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) World Press Freedom Index 2021, monitoring media rights.

“The Pakistani media, which has a long tradition of being very lively, has become a priority target for the country’s ‘deep state’, a euphemism for the army and inter-service intelligence (ISI ), the leading military intelligence agency and a significant degree of control they exercise over the civilian executive, “he says. RSF of press freedom in Pakistan.

The attack on Toor is the latest in recent months to target a journalist considered critical of the country’s army and government, led by Prime Minister Imran Khan.

In July 2020, prominent television journalist Matiullah Jan was abducted by unidentified men outside a school in the capital Islamabad and was released after being held for 12 hours in an undisclosed location. Jan said he was tied up, gagged and beaten during that period.

No arrests have been made in connection with this attack.

In April, Absar Alam, a senior journalist based in Islamabad, was shot in the abdomen while out for a walk in a park near his house. Alam survived the attack. No arrests have been made in this case, according to police.

Since 1992, at least 61 journalists have been killed in attacks on Pakistan, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

The reign of Prime Minister Khan has seen a marked increase in threats, intimidation and direct censorship directed at the country’s press, with journalists and editors in Al Jazeera. they are forbidden to deal with certain subjects, especially related to the increasing role of the military in governance and politics.

Toor, a reporter and producer, has gained prominence since launching a YouTube channel for his journalism in December. Since then, the channel, where Toor reports and comments on events that are often not covered by major media outlets, has gained more than 24,000 subscribers.

On Tuesday, as he was lying on the floor of his bathroom, being beaten by the three men, he says his gag began to get lost.

“I started screaming […] I had understood that it made no sense to remain silent, they would just hit me harder, ”he said in a statement released hours after the attack.

The three attackers, he said, stopped beating him with an order and ordered him to shut up as they left his apartment.

Closed-circuit television footage of the apartment building showed three men coming out of Toor’s apartment, wearing clothes that matched the description he had given in the police report.

Asad Hashim is Al Jazeera’s digital correspondent in Pakistan. Make a tweet @AsadHashim





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