By Our Reporter
There has been no newspaper circulation for the last 20 days in parts of Balochistan after threats to journalists and attacks on press clubs and hawkers.
The militants had earlier set the deadline to boycott newspapers from October 24. Since then they started attacking press clubs, burning newspaper bundles and threatening those who kept the business alive, with dire consequences. But since the attacks and threats to the vendors and hawkers, there is a complete blockade of newspapers.
On October 24, Hub Press Club, located on the outskirts of Karachi city, was attacked with a grenade. The grenade landed on the court wall but fortunately, no life was lost even though many journalists were present inside the club at the time of the attack.
On October 26, a news vendor shop in Turbat, Pak News Agency was attacked with a hand grenade which injured at least six people, according to the police.
On October 26, in another incident, a group of armed men attacked a newspaper van in Awaran area. They burst the tyres and burnt all newspapers and magazines. The driver received death threats in case he continued bringing newspapers.
On 30 October, unknown armed men attacked a staff member of a local newspaper in Quetta. They snatched newspapers and burnt them to ashes.
On November 1st, banned militant organisations warned journalists and press clubs again in Gwadar, Hub, Lasbela, Panjgur, Noshki and other areas of the province. The militants said that some of the journalists and news agencies were continuing their activities in violation of the boycott.
The militants warned journalists of dire consequences if they did not suspend their activities immediately.
After the press clubs received fresh threats, all journalists bodies issued formal notifications to halt their activities and to close all the press clubs.
People have no access to print media in most areas of Balochistan as there are no newspapers available and a complete blackout is in effect.
Nargis Baloch, a well-known journalist and the editor of the daily Intikhab spoke to Pak Voices, saying, “Journalists in Balochistan are sandwiched between the state and militants. On one hand, they are pressured by the state institutions and on the other hand, militants want them to work according to their (militants’) will.”
Regarding journalists protection, she said, “We are not provided any security by the government rather it’s totally absent in this case.”
She also complained about the indifferent attitude of the leading journalist bodies in the country which have not come to their rescue. “The journalists’ influential bodies in Pakistan are looking the other way when the Baloch journalists need them.”
She explained the publishers’ stance in the current scenario, adding, “How long can we survive if the printed copies of the newspapers are wasted every day? We have limited resources. If the current situation continues, many newspapers would cease to print.”
Behram Baloch a senior journalist and president Gwadar Press Club Gwadar talked to Pak Voices, saying, “Like all other areas of Balochistan, journalists in Gwadar are also facing difficulties. There is a reign of terror and an unannounced ban on freedom of expression.”
At the moment all activities by the journalists remain suspended in the Makran Coast including Gwadar and other parts of Balochistan. All the press clubs are locked and press buildings are cordoned off by the police.