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HRCP criticises govt for failing to act on threats to journalists

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) condemned the killing of a journalist in Haripur and death threats and an apparent attack against another in Lahore.

In a statement issued on Monday, the HRCP stated: “We have received with great concern reports of targeted killing of Bakhshish Elahi, bureau chief of an Urdu newspaper, and a rashly driven car apparently trying to run over Rana Tanveer, chief reporter of an English newspaper in Lahore, when he was returning from a meeting of Punjab Union of Journalists in Lahore on Friday afternoon. Mr Tanveer is hospitalised with his leg fractured in two places. The circumstances suggest that this was not a random incident of rash driving.

“While the authorities in Haripur have failed to protect Bakhshish Elahi’s from the murderous attack, the plight of Mr Tanveer is equally disturbing. Tanveer is of course well known in media and civil society circles for his objective reporting, including faith-related issues. On May 30, death threats were scrawled on the door of his home in Lahore, apparently for writing about violence against religious minorities.”

According to the statement, the matter was reported to the police. “However, neither a case was registered nor any demonstrable effort initiated to identify, much less apprehend, those who made the threats,” read the statement. “In fact, the advice Mr Tanveer seems to have got from the police was to not register a case lest that upsets the perpetrators further. One wonders what advice the authorities have for Mr Tanveer now as he recovers from his injuries. The cavalier attitude of the authorities in the face of such serious threats defies belief. They should take more seriously their responsibility to ensure protection for Mr Tanveer without further delay. HRCP hopes that the authorities appreciate that there are times when only a thin line separates inaction from de facto collusion.”

The statement pointed out that it is a well-known fact that working journalists in Pakistan are a beleaguered community threatened from all sides. “Pakistan has been one of the most dangerous countries for media practitioners for years,” it read. “It has also consistently ranked among 10 nations with the highest levels of impunity for perpetrators of crimes against journalists. We believe that the culture of impunity makes the work-related threats facing journalists more grave.”

It added that the HRCP urges the authorities to take all possible measure to apprehend the perpetrators in both the cases. “A failure to do that will not only embolden the perpetrators but also force journalists, whose services society needs more now than ever, to exercise self-censorship in the hope of avoiding upsetting bigots and work-related violence,” read the statement.

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