Gen. Pervez Musharraf, who took power in a 1999 coup, is able to rely on the military’s Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) to monitor, intimidate, manipulate, arrest or torture Pakistani and foreign journalists who enquire into a sensitive issues. Granted another five years as president in a 2002 referendum marred by irregularities, Musharraf authorised the secret detention and torture of Khawar Mehdi Rizvi, a fixer for the French magazine L’Express, in 2003 after Rizvi assisted an investigation into a Taliban group on the Afghan border.
Investigative journalist Amir Mir was fired from the Weekly Independent in June 2003 as a result of pressure by Musharraf, who accused him of tarnishing Pakistan’s image. Mir’s car was set on fire in November. Newspaper editor Rehmat Shah Afridi was condemned to death after criticising the behaviour of a government anti-narcotics agency that is controlled by Gen. Musharraf and financed by the United States. He was convicted on a drug-trafficking charge trumped up by the intelligence agencies.
Despite these serial violations, Musharraf repeatedly proclaimed his support for press freedom. He did indeed permit the creation of new, privately-owned broadcast media, but this was for fear of being left behind by neighbouring India, where the independent press is growing fast. His ministers, especially information minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmad, also said the government had no intention of obstructing journalists in their work.
What the authorities tolerated least were reports about the presence of Taliban and Al Qaeda members in Pakistani territory. Foreign journalists found it very difficult to obtain permission to visit border regions especially those near Peshawar or Quetta and the security services kept anyone going there under close surveillance. In October, the Pakistani army invited the press to follow part of its operations in one of the tribal areas on the "embedded journalist" model used for the invasion of Iraq.
The authorities also used advertising revenue as a weapon to limit criticism. In April, the government gave the information department sole responsibility for assigning state advertising, on which many print media are largely dependent for their survival.
On the other hand, the government continued to liberalise the media market. Cross ownership of print and electronic media was made possible in July. Information minister Ahmad announced the creation of ten new cable TV channels and the launch of a three-channel satellite package by the state-owned Pakistan Television Corporation (PTV). It was widely recognised that the privately-owned cable television company, Geo TV, which assigns much of its broadcast time to news, was becoming increasingly influential. Experts said it was quite independent in its handling of the news, especially compared with the state-owned PTV. Gen. Musharraf is believed to have tolerated Geo TV in order to bring Pakistani viewers back to a national channel after many of them, especially during the Kashmir war in 1999, began watching privately-owned Indian channels which are freer in their news coverage. There were limits to this liberalisation, as Geo TV was not given a licence for terrestrial broadcasting and has to broadcast from base in Dubai.
The liberalisation of the airwaves was defended by the chairman of the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA), Mian Muhammad Javed. "The media create knowledge and ensure transparency," he said. The information minister announced on 30 December that the PEMRA was going to grant 13 new licences in the coming months. But most of the press groups that applied for radio and TV licences had to face very extensive bureaucratic procedures and political constraints. The range of banned content goes from "anti-national" reports to Indian songs.
The federal authorities continued to impose restrictions on cable TV operators. In March, they were banned from offering Indian channels on the grounds that the new privately-owned Pakistani channels needed to be protected from competition. The cable operations reacted by ceasing to distribute certain regional and international channels in August. After several weeks, the authorities agreed to negotiate.
In general, television is becoming more and more influential compared with the English-language print media, which reach less than two per cent of the population. The Urdu-language newspapers, for their part, have a combined circulation of three million, also quite low for a population of 150 million.
As elsewhere in Asia, community radio is developing despite the bureaucratic hurdles. Former information minister Javed Jabbar criticised the obstacles to the creation of new radio stations in April. There are only 25 stations in Pakistan and less than half of their programming is in regional languages. The authorities granted a score of new radio licences in May.
The constraints on press freedom and the safety of journalists are considerable in some part of the country such as the tribal areas and Kashmir. The local authorities and traditional chiefs threaten correspondents who report abuses, many of which are committed under emergency provisions. The new government in North-West Frontier Province, which is led by a coalition of religious parties, announced its intention of eliminating "obscenity and vulgarity" especially in cable TV programming and cinema.
A journalist killed
A journalist was murdered in 2003, but at the end of the year it was still impossible to say if his death was linked to his work.
Amir Bux Brohi was on his way to his office in Shikarpur (in the north of the southeastern province of Sindh) on the evening of 3 October 2003 when he was stopped by three men, who fatally shot him and fled. He was the correspondent of the Sindhi-language Daily Kawish and the KTN television channel. He had been a reporter in Shikarpur for 12 years and according to Ahmed Raza, the Daily Times’s correspondent in Hyderabad, he was known for covering human rights violations by the police and members of the local elite. His family said he had been threatened several times.
His murder sparked heated reactions. Journalists demonstrated in the province’s major cities and then throughout the rest of the country to press demands for the authorities to do everything necessary to arrest the perpetrators and protect reporters. Journalists in Sindh even went on hunger strike. On 14 October, the press boycotted the workings of the federal parliament in Islamabad. The information minister promised arrests within five days.
But doubts emerged about the motive for the murder. Brohi’s father accused a family member of being the instigator. Investigators discovered that money was transferred from Brohi’s account to that of a family member a few days before the murder. Brohi came from a very poor family but had accumulated a degree of wealth as a result of his contacts. This had given rise to jealousy within his family and among members of his tribe, and his murder could therefore have been personally motivated. Shahnawaz Brohi was arrested as a suspect on 11 December but was released on bail the next day. He was not even questioned by the police officers in charge of the investigation, Brohi’s father said.
New information about journalists killed before 2003
The accused perpetrators of the October 2002 murder of Shahid Soomro of the Daily Kawish appeared before a jirga (traditional assembly) in Kandkhot (in the southwestern province of Balochistan) on 28 January 2003. Wahid and Mohammed Ali Bijarani, the brothers of local politician Mir Mehboob Bijarani, were alleged to have shot Soomro because of his articles about recent electoral abuses by the Bijarani clan, which dominates politics in Kandkhot. The assembly concluded with Soomro’s widow and five children being awarded 1.65 million rupees (about 25,000 euros) in damages (a third of which was special compensation for "murder of a journalist"). Traditional assemblies are used in this part of Pakistan to settle conflicts, including those involving murder, in order to avoid overly heavy punishments for those accused.
Fazal Karim, one of the main suspects in the January 2002 kidnapping and subsequent murder of US journalist Daniel Pearl of the Wall Street Journal, was placed in pretrial custody on a charge of drug possession on 16 April in Thatta district (in Sindh province). According to several sources, Karim was arrested in Karachi in July 2002 by Pakistani security officials and the CIA at the same time as other suspects in the Pearl case. Karim’s lawyer claimed that he was then held secretly and illegally by the police for nearly eight months. Qari Abdul Hai, the presumed leader of the Islamist group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, was arrested in Muzaffargarh (near the central city of Multan) on 29 May. Although suspected of participating in Pearl’s abduction, he was not charged in connection with the case. He was instead taken to court for the alleged murder of six Shiites in 1994, for which he faces the death penalty.
US government officials told the Wall Street Journal in October that alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was also thought to have been directly involved in Pearl’s murder. New information, which investigators insisted on keeping secret, reportedly showed that it was Mohammed who cut Pearl’s throat. Although many Pakistani newspapers carried these allegations, the Pakistani officials in charge of the investigation said they were not in a position to confirm them. The Pakistani judges in charge of hearing the appeal of the four Islamist militants already convicted of Pearl’s murder postponed a court hearing on 21 October for the sixth time since December 2002 because of the defence lawyer’s absence.
Two journalists kidnapped
Akhtar Baloch, a journalist and member of the local section of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) in the southeastern city of Hyderabad, was kidnapped on 23 March 2003 as he was returning from an HRCP meeting in Thandi Sharak. His abductors blindfolded him, took him somewhere, questioned him for three days about his personal life, his work as a journalist and his contacts in India, and then released him. He said they did not use physical torture. Family members said they suspected a Pakistani intelligence agency was responsible.
Muneer Rajar of the Daily Kawish, the most important newspaper in the southeastern Sindh region, was kidnapped by four men in Hyderabad as he was going home on 23 April. They bundled him into a car, blindfolded him, tied his hands and took him to place where he was held for five hours. While there, an officer with the security forces ordered him to stop criticising the local authorities. Rajar had written about human rights violations on several occasions.
Six journalists imprisoned
Munawar Mohsin, who edited the readers’ letters section of the daily Frontier Post, was condemned to life imprisonment and fined 50,000 rupees (750 euros) on 8 July 2003 by the North-West Frontier Province district court for "selecting" and "publishing" a letter that allegedly insulted the Prophet Muhammad and was therefore blasphemkus and a violation of the criminal code. Two other members of the newspaper’s staff, news editor Aftab Ahmad and head of computing Wajeehul Hassan, were acquitted, but an arrest warrant was issued for editor in chief Mahmood Shah Afridi, already a fugitive from the police.
Mohsin’s lawyer filed an appeal two days later before the Peshawar high court claiming that the letter’s publication was not deliberate and that the judge violated article 465 of the code of criminal procedure concerning mentally disturbed defendants. Mohsin’s brother told the press that Mohsin was disturbed and had been a heroin addict prior to his arrest. Mohsin was arrested in Peshawar on 29 January 2001, the same day that the offending letter appeared in the newspaper, signed by someone identified as Ben Dzec. Its publication sparked violent protests in Pakistan during the following days, in the course of which extremists ransacked the Frontier Post’s premises. The authorities had reacted by banning the newspaper for two months.
Rasheed Azam, a journalist with the local newspapers Intikhab and Asap and a human rights activist in the southwestern province of Balochistan, was arrested on 12 August after distributing a poster showing a solder beating demonstrators. During the police investigation, reference was also made to his articles criticising federal policy towards Balochistan and he was reportedly beaten in the course of interrogation sessions. Both a lower court and the high court rejected requests for his release on bail.
The family of Rehmat Shah Afridi, a former editor in chief of the dailies Frontier Post and Maidan who has been condemned to death, reported in September that they were very worried about his state of health. They said he had lost a lot of weight and had not been allowed to received the treatment he needed for his heart ailment. Arrested on 2 April 1999, he was convicted on 27 June 2001 of drug trafficking and possession and was sentenced to be hanged. Afridi still claims he is innocent. It appears he was framed by the US-funded Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF) in revenge for the reports he often ran in both of his newspapers accusing the ANF of corruption, drug trafficking and illegal arms sales. He was tortured following his arrest and placed in the death row in Kot Lakhpat prison in Lahore (in Punjab province). Until recently, he was never let out of his cell and had no mattress. Family members asked the Punjab interior minister in September to give orders for him to receive the treatment he needs. The minister said he would be moved to a centre that specialised in cardiology, but the promised transfer had not taken place by the end of the year. The appeal he filed after his conviction has never been heard.
Two French journalists working for the French news weekly L’Express, reporter Marc Epstein and photographer Jean-Paul Guilloteau, were arrested by the Federal Investigation Agency on 16 December in Karachi on a charge of violating regulations governing the "circulation of foreigners." They had press visas for Pakistan but, because their investigative reporting required discretion, they had not requested the necessary special permits for a trip they made to Quetta in the province of Balochistan with their Pakistani fixer Khawar Mehdi Rizvi. As a result, they faced up to three years in prison under the 1946 Foreigners Act.
Rizvi was kidnapped the same day in Karachi by military intelligence officers. He was detained in a different place from the French journalists and his name was not even mentioned on their charge sheet. It subsequently emerged that the military tortured him badly. The police meanwhile confiscated Epstein’s computer and notebook and Guilloteau’s digital camera memory cards and videotapes.
A judge refused to release Epstein and Guilloteau on bail on 20 December and they were transferred in handcuffs to Karachi prison. Rizvi’s brother meanwhile said he had been trying for five days to get information about Rizvi and voiced concern and anger about his "disappearance." At the same time, the newspaper Jang reported that an employee of a Rawalpindi mosque had also been arrested for "complicity" with Rizvi in the preparation of what the authorities portrayed as a bogus report.
A report put together by the state-owned PTV claimed that Rizvi paid Afghans to pose as Taliban fighters training. Various sources described the PTV report as a crude mix of Epstein’s video footage interspersed with reconstruction and fabricated statements. The two French journalists were freed on bail on 24 December but were ordered to stay in Pakistan pending trial. The same day, Rizvi’s lawyer obtained a writ of habeas corpus from the Sindh high court for the authorities to produce Rizvi in court before the end of the year. However, a Federal Investigation Agency representative denied to the court on 30 December that the agency was holding Rizvi. At the end of the year, Rizvi was still secretly held by the authorities in very harsh conditions.
At least 12 journalists detained
On 3 May 2003, police raided the office of Muhammad Faiz, the correspondent of the daily Mashriq in the northwestern city of Charsadda, struck Faiz and arrested him. Journalists took to the streets of Charsadda a few hours later in protest. Faiz was released after eight hours, but remained under police surveillance. He said the police insulted him all the time he was held but did not beat him. Three days prior to his arrest, Faiz wrote an article criticising the local police for their attitude toward the local population.
Six reporters and three photographers were detained in Jamshoro (in the southeastern province of Sindh) during a visit by President Musharraf on 26 August. They were struck and arrested by police while covering a women’s demonstration. Nadeem Panhwar of the Daily Kawish, Sharif Abroo of the Daily Koshish, Hakim Chandio of the Daily Ibrat, Ifran Barwat of the Tameer Sindh, Shahid Khushk of the Daily Unmat and Haji Khan Sial of the Daily Jang were placed in custody in different police stations in the area. They were released the next day but remained charged with making "anti-Pakistani" statements.
Nasrullah Afridi and Aurangzeb Afridi, correspondents for the Peshawar-based, Urdu-language dailies Mashriq and Subah, were detained for several hours on 18 September in a private prison run by the fundamentalist Organisation for Ulema Unity (Tanzeem Ittehad-e-Ulema) in the Khyber Agency part of the Tribal Areas. Respectively president and vice-president of the Tribal Union of Journalists in the Khyber Agency, they had just filed reports on the abduction of two persons from Lahore by Tanzeem Ittehad-e-Ulema.
They were released after several hours as a result of pressure from influential persons, but were ordered to come to a meeting with the organisation. They refused to attend and thereafter received threats that they should fear for their lives if they did not "give up the idea of a free press in the Khyber Agency." In a previous report, Nasrullah Afridi had described Tanzeem Ittehad-e-Ulema as an illegal group, recalling that it had been banned for the past five years. Nonetheless, it has an armed wing comprising 3,000 persons in the Tribal Areas and imposes it own law in the region.
At least 27 journalists physically attacked
Journalists were beaten by members of the secret service while covering a ceremony in honour of the president’s wife, Begum Sehba Musharraf, in Alhamra (in Punjab province) on 18 January 2003. The Punjab Union of Journalists staged a march through the provincial capital of Lahore two days later in protest.
Sami Paracha, the daily Dawn’s correspondent in Kohat (in the south of northwestern Peshawar province), was abducted and attacked on 18 April. A group of men came to his home to take him to a reception by the mayor, but they took him by force to a hospital where they threatened him, beat him and locked him inside a bathroom. He was rescued after calling the police with his mobile phone. He believed the attack was a reprisal for a report he wrote about the privileges received by a local gang leader, Pir Habib Shah, when he was treated in the hospital.
Ten journalists covering a demonstration in Lahore (the capital of the eastern province of Punjab) were struck by four members of the local police on 28 May. The city’s journalists staged a demonstration outside the Punjab assembly in protest and called a two-day boycott of parliamentary activities to press demands for the punishment of the policemen involved. Two provincial ministers apologised to the press and promised that the police would be sanctioned.
Anwarullah Khan, the daily Dawn’s correspondent in the Bajaur Agency part of the Tribal Areas, was attacked by three armed henchmen of tribal chief Nawabzada Mohammad Idress Khan as he left his office on 2 September.
Geo TV correspondent Muhammad Ejaz Khan and daily Jang correspondent Haji Muhammad Ajmal were injured by a bomb in the centre of the western city of Quetta on 10 November. They had rushed to the site of an initial explosion when a second bomb went off in the same place. Khan was hospitalised in Karachi with eye injuries. Ajmal was only slightly hurt.
Police beat Abid Nawab, Yasir Nawab and Muhammad Naeem of the weekly Ayubi and searched their office in Faisalabad on 22 November after they ran a report about police involvement in a case of extortion. Four policemen were suspended after a complaint was filed with the Pakistani Human Rights Commission.
At least six journalists threatened
The News correspondent Amjad Warraich and his wife were robbed in their home in Lahore by masked intruders on 11 February 2003. The police made no arrests, although Warraich thought the robbery may have been linked to threats he had received in the preceding weeks in response to reports he had written about certain officials. A member of the intelligence agency had warned him at the start of the year not to write articles that could cause him "problems," while an official advised him not to write political articles for the Weekly Independent.
Ilyas Mehraj, the owner of the Weekly Independent, received a threatening phone call on 10 March from Punjab home secretary Ejaz Shah, who accused him of working against "the national interest." The newspaper focuses on politics and is very critical of the army. Shah, who is the region’s former intelligence director, told Mehraj to back off he wanted to avoid jeopardising his weekly and his own life, and Shah cited the case of Rana Sanaullah Khan, twice arrested and tortured for criticising the government. Following these threats, the Punjab government stopped placing advertising with the newspaper, stripping it of an important source of income. More than 100 journalists demonstrated in Islamabad on 3 April in protest against these punitive measures.
In May, the authorities announced that the Weekly Independent was being investigated for "publishing articles hostile to the army, the President, the Prime Minister and Pakistan." The magazine’s three most recent issues had carried articles referring to conflicts between Musharraf and the prime minister, and between Musharraf and the army. Editor Amir Mir wrote in an editorial on 12 June that it was not easy to keep a newspaper going in a country where the army dominates political life and security officials call newspaper editors and owners to tell them what they may or may not publish. Mir resigned the next day, after several months of pressure from the authorities to change the magazine’s editorial line.
The magazine claimed that Musharraf had himself chaired a meeting in Lahore at which it was decided that concrete measures should be taken against the Weekly Independent, including the withdrawal of official advertising. Messages were also indirectly conveyed to the magazine’s investors and staff by Tariq Aziz Warraich, Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, three associates of the president. The day he resigned, Mir said he would rather go than carry on being subjected to all sorts of pressure aimed at making the magazine bow to the government.
Khalid Mehmood Shah, the editor of the opposition monthly Sharhag-e-Pakistan, was harassed by police in his office in Lahore or 30 June. About 70 police ransacked the monthly’s premises claiming to looking for Shah’s brother, the spokesman of opposition leader Shahbaz Sharif. Armed policemen then occupied the offices for 36 hours, following Shah whenever he moved from one place to another. They left on 1 July, taking diskettes and other computer material. The Council of Pakistan Newspapers Editors (CPNE) said Shah was targeted because of his criticism of the government.
Jehangir Shehzad, a crime reporter with the Peshawar-based, Urdu-language Express, received death threats by telephone and fax during on October. Then, on the night of 29 October, he was chased by a car as he was going home and nearly crashed. He said he did not know the reason for these threats.
On 22 November, thugs set fire to the car of leading investigative journalist Amir Mir and fired shots outside his home in Lahore, in the eastern province of Punjab. Previously the editor of the Weekly Independent (see above), Mir was now the deputy editor of the English-language monthly Herald. The government denied any involvement in these incidents, although they followed a long series of threats and acts of harassment against Mir by senior military and civilian officials, including information minister Rasheed Ahmed and the head of military intelligence in Punjab, Arslan Ali Khan. Mir was also accused by Gen. Rashid Qureshi of being an "Indian agent" because of an article he wrote in the Indian magazine Outlook.
Mir told Reporters Without Borders he feared for his life: "I have received indirect messages from the authorities asking me to leave Pakistan ... I’ve already told my family that if anything serious happens to me, Gen. Musharraf should be held directly responsible ... I’m very afraid for my family’s safety." The latest acts of intimidation came after President Musharraf told a meeting of leading newspaper editors on 20 November that the editors of the Herald and the monthly Newsline had not been invited because they ran stories that damaged Pakistan’s international image. In response to a question about the presence in Pakistan of Dawood Ibrahim, the reputed head of an Indian crime organisation, Musharraf said certain Pakistani newspapers published harmful reports that supported Indian allegations and therefore damaged Pakistan’s national interests. The August and November issues of the Herald had carried investigative reports by Mir on this matter.
Harassment and obstruction
Some 30 gunmen wrecked the installations of cable TV operator OK Cable Network in the northwestern city of Peshawar on the night of 7 January. No arrests were made, although the installations were only 100 metres from the Gulbahar police station. Peshawar’s other cable operators suspended services to their tens of thousands of subscribers in the region for two days in protest. But after talks with federal government representatives, they resumed transmissions on 9 January. Tariq Mateen, a nazim (elected mayor), destroyed the cable network in a Peshawar neighbourhood the next day with the help of Islamist activists and announced a de facto ban on cable TV. He and his followers called on the local authorities to "purge the region of this curse" so that the Pakistani people could live according to Islam’s rules. There were reports of clashes between saboteurs and residents. Cable operators were warned to shut down at once.
The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) received hundreds of calls every day in January protesting against the ban on Indian TV channels introduced by the federal government in 2002. On 27 January, PEMRA appealed to viewers to stop putting pressure on cable operators as the banned channels were "contrary to the national interest." The federal minister of information and media development on 17 March reiterated the government’s determination to maintain the ban on Indian channels because of the danger that they would "compromise the country’s future generations." The minister also wanted to restrict Pakistani cable TV to national channels in order to protect the Pakistani TV industry.
Syed Anwar, an Afghan journalist with the Peshawar-based, English-language daily Frontier Post, was threatened by intelligence agents from the province of Nangarhar in eastern Afghanistan in mid-February after he wrote two reports about Hazrat Ali, Nangarhar’s former police chief and military commander. In a report on 15 February, he said Ali had been arrested. The next day, he wrongly reported that Ali had been charged with drug trafficking, abduction and helping Al Qaeda members escape from the mountains of Tora Bora. Two intelligence agents from Nangarhar came to the Frontier Post’s offices in Peshawar and told Ali he should expect "dire personal consequences." They also said they could deny Pakistani journalists access to Afghanistan’s three eastern provinces. Anwar told Reporters Without Borders he feared for his life as a result of these threats. The Nangarhar authorities banned the sale of Frontier Post in the province on 18 February.
The family of Hayatullah Khan, the correspondent of the national Urdu-language daily Ausaf in Mir Ali in the North Waziristan part of the Tribal Areas, was harassed by military officials for several weeks beginning on 3 April as a result a report about misuse of army vehicles in Mir Ali. Khan’s brothers and daughter were expelled from their army-run school. The officer in charge of the school also threatened Khan. On 21 April, he relented and readmitted Khan’s relatives.
On 4 April, a bomb went off outside the home of Awardeen Mehsood, the correspondent of the Urdu-language national daily Khabrian and the news agency NNI, in Laddah, the main town in the South Waziristan part of the Tribal Areas. The explosion damaged the door of his home but caused no injuries. It was thought to be linked to Mehsood’s reports about the activities of a youth movement that is pressing for a change in the status of the Tribal Areas. The federal authorities have promised to liberalize the laws governing this region, which borders Afghanistan, but the civilian administrator still has significant coercive powers. Mehsood, who is also one of the leaders of the Tribal Union of Journalists (TUJ), was fined 5,000 euros in 2002 for allegedly libelling the region’s civilian administration.
Some 10 people attacked the watchman at a cable TV operator’s office in Nawan Kali, near the city of Quetta (in the southwestern province of Balochistan), on 22 April, setting fire to equipment and throwing the watchman into the flames. He had to be hospitalised. A representative of the Quetta Cable Network Association said at a press conference that it did not rule out the possibility that the assailants were Islamist activists. The operator concerned had previously received threats. The association also announced that it was suspending cable TV service in protest.
The attack came after Balochistan’s rulling alliance of conservative and fundamentalist parties began pressing for a ban on cable TV and the province’s information minister had launched a campaign against TV "pornography." After two days, the cable operators announced that they were resuming service. In the course of negotiations with the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) and the Quetta police chief, the cable operators were told that an investigation would be carried out to identify those responsible for the attacks, and that both the cable operating company and the watchman would be compensated.
The Lahore high court on 13 May banned the news media from covering judicial proceedings against President Musharraf, who was the subject of a complaint aimed at having him tried for "high treason."
The government of the northwestern province of Peshawar, which is led by a fundamentalist party, the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), banned male journalists from covering female sports events on 16 May. The ban was one of a large number of measures aimed at separating men from women that have been adopted by the MMA administration since it took office in November 2002.
The government banned the privately-owned news media from covering a speech by President Musharraf at a conference of education ministers from South Asian countries on 19 May in Islamabad.
The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) announced on 25 May that a system for automatically censoring TV programmes contrary to "Pakistani values" was in the process of being set up. The PEMRA had meanwhile just established a moral code for cable TV operators designed to protect the country’s ideology and cultural values.
Access to the online investigative newspaper, the South Asia Tribune, was blocked in most Pakistani cities on 30 May by the Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited (PTCL), which controls telecommunications. The Washington-based newspaper succeeded on 3 June in setting up a new way of accessing its website by going through other servers. Editor Shaheen Sehbai said the sudden ban was prompted by several recent articles on the site that openly criticised Gen. Musharraf, especially his military support for the United States. The site also often carries reports on human rights violations by the Pakistani authorities and it has exposed several corruption scandals implicating the country’s leaders.
The municipal authorities of Quetta (the capital of Balochistan province) ordered editors and printers in the region to publish nothing without official approval on 10 July. The authorities feared ethnic and religious violence in the city after a bomb went off in a Shiite mosque. The authorities also banned the reproduction and dissemination of unauthorised texts, gatherings of more than four people, the use of loud-speakers and graffiti and the written dissemination of "shocking" messages. These measures were lifted a few days later.
Information minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmad announced on 24 July that the customs department had been instructed to seize all copies of the 28 July issue of Newsweek because of an article entitled "Challenging the Qur’an" that was an "insult" to Islam and could cause unrest. The article reported that a German linguist believed the Qur’an (or Koran) may have originally been written in Aramaic instead of Arabic and that this would explain a number of errors of interpretation about the veil, the reward for martyrs and even the Qur’an’s origin. Newsweek’s stringer in Peshawar (the capital of North-West Frontier Province) meanwhile fled the city for fear of reprisals.
Journalists in the town of Abbottabad in North-West Frontier Province were the target of a campaign of intimidation by the local authorities in July. The fundamentalist Jamat-e-Islami, which is the ruling party in the area, tried to close the town’s press club. As a result of this harassment, the club’s vice-president, Amer Shahzad Jadoon, was fired from the daily Mashriq Peshawar.
The home of Voice of America correspondent Mukhtar Ahmad Khan in Sawaldher (in North-West Frontier Province) was searched by police with no warrant on 18 August. They claimed they were looking for a suspect.
A municipal official in Sheikhupura, in the eastern province of Punjab, on 21 August brought a complaint against nine journalists, including the president and general secretary of the town’s press club, Rana Sarwar and Azeem Ahmad Yazdani, for "interference in official business." They had written about a municipal official’s alleged involvement in a case of corruption.
Khalid Hasan, the US-based correspondent of the Pakistani Daily Times newspaper, was the target of a campaign of defamation and intimidation by three diplomats with Pakistan’s embassy in Washington in September. They accused him of lacking credibility after he questioned their professionalism and probity in a report.
An anti-terrorist court judge on 2 September ordered the management of the satellite television channel ARY Digital TV, which broadcasts from Britain, to apologise on the air for broadcasting an interview with a defendant while his trial was under way. Interviewee Shaikh Muhammad Amjad, who was condemned to death, made comments which the court considered "insulting."