The word ‘unprecedented’ is often used in connection with the repression tactics used against the media in this country for the past few years. On Monday morning, authorities violated another convention, with Rangers Sindh conducting a raid at the Karachi Press Club. After being questioned, they stated that they were conducting a ‘full clean rehearsal’ in preparation for warning of threats in the ‘Red Zone’, where KPC is also located. No permission was sought from the press club authorities for this exercise. Why do Rangers Sindh consider themselves entitled to break into the location which is the center of journalists in Karachi, indeed a symbol of freedom of the press? With the demonization – not to mention kidnapping – of ‘naughty’ journalists and micro management of the news agenda and their presentation by powerful forces behind the scenes, one can think of this latest provocation as another attempt to bring the media to heel. Surely the Sindh Rangers will not do ‘training’ without notice at the elite Club Sind venue in the same area?
This incident is reminiscent of the night of November 8, 2018, when several armed men in civilian clothing entered KPC by force, harassing the journalists present and searching the place. Later it was claimed that the attack was carried out by CTD personnel to arrest a journalist for possessing anti-state literature and hatred, and that they mistakenly ended up in KPC – a very well-known location – because of “some problems in their GSM locator.” Individuals concerned, Nasrullah Khan Chaudhry was arrested the next day and then sentenced to five years in prison by the anti-terrorism court.In April, the Sindh High Court acquitted him.These cases were symptomatic of the trials that the media had to suffer, and again became evidence with the Rangers raids. The media, or at least some of its less flexible parts, are painted inherently suspicious and improper for the protection caused by it.Even during General Ziaul Haq’s regime, KPC was considered out of bounds for law enforcement personnel.It was said a lot when the media felt more under siege under democratic system as if than during k military edict. In the end, it reduces the government that it cannot or does not want to protect the fundamental right to freedom of expression.
Published in Dawn, July 31, 2020
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