By Malik Siraj Akbar
Following the forced closure of Daily Aassap, FC troops had laid a siege of the offices of Daily Balochistan Express and Daily Azadi, two prominent independent newspapers from this backward Province of Balochistan. It is the fourth consecutive day that the FC troops laid the siege, checking and intimidating the staff members of the two premier daily newspapers round the clock. All the staff members are harassed, questioned and detained for long only to inflict mental shock to them. It is a part of the psychological warfare against the twin newspapers and their staff members with ulterior motives.
Why? There is no answer. Even the big guns in the government are completely blank. When reached the senior officials of the Frontier Crops, they denied the laying of siege claiming that it is merely “routine security check”. In fact, the siege is newspapers-specific. Only the newspaper staff, journalists and non-journalist staff are stopped, searched and asked irrelevant questions. At the outset of the siege, some of the FC officials formally interrogated some staff members and they were involved in information gathering presumably with an intention to plan a bigger and a decisive action against the newspapers.
The management of both the newspapers said it had already approached the All Pakistan Newspaper Society (APNS), an organization of newspaper owners and publishers, the Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors (CPNE), the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), the International Union of Journalists and the Reporters without Borders informing them about the ground realities and details of the recent incidents. The issue was also brought to the notice of the Chief Minister of Balochistan Nawab Mohammad Aslam Raisani, Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting and other officials of the federal and provincial governments.
A high-level delegation of media professionals had a meeting with the Chief Minister on Monday afternoon and informed about the FC siege of the newspaper offices. The Chief Minister promised to address the issue.
However, the siege continued on Monday night at the time of writing these lines and staff members were subjected to intense search and questioning all the time they report for duty. The more deplorable thing is that the attitude of the FC personnel is insulting and provocative. In some cases, they simply threw away the identity cards of the newspaper establishment with full contempt and in insulting manner. This indicated the mindset of the FC soldiers in the backdrop of the way they were briefed how to handle the issue.
We seek immediate intervention of the President of Pakistan, the Prime Minister and others to lift the siege of the newspaper office and stop the attack on the freedom of expression and the Press. We hope that the Chief Justice of Pakistan will take suo motto notice to the violation of laws of the land by subjecting the journalists and staff members for body search as if they are gun runners, drug dealers and hardened criminals deserving harsh and merciless treatment.
We also appeal to the political parties, mainly of Balochistan based parties, civil society, human rights organization to take up the issue of illegal and uncalled for siege of newspaper offices by the FC troops for no reasons. We hope that the civil society and the political parties in all other provinces of Pakistan will express complete solidarity with the independent newspaper and journalists with open minds. They should restrain the security forces from taking harsh action against innocent and law abiding newspapers.
“We reiterate that we are not rouge newspapers. Both are published under the laws of the land and for the past two decades with complete responsibility. Both the newspapers are members of the APNS and CPNE while the journalists are members of the PFUJ, the organizations of owners and publishers, newspaper editors and journalists of Pakistan,” said Siddiq Baluch, the editor-in-chief of both the newspapers.