Targeting of Marvi Sirmed latest in attacks on human rights activists, journalists, in Pakistan

Marvi Sirmed ransack-2018

Journalist couple Marvi and Sirmed Manzoor’s house ransacked: Humiliating violation of privacy besides theft of laptops, cell phone, passport. Online photo

Journalists in Pakistan are under increasing pressure, besides severe, ongoing censorship. The break in to columnist and activist Marvi Sirmed’s house and its ransacking is the latest in the series of intimidation, threats and violence to those who uphold democratic values and are critical of the security establishment.

Strongly condemning the ransacking, in which laptops, phones and passport were stolen, the CWIJ has demanded that the government immediately take action “to offer protection to Marvi and all other journalists especially as elections approach,” says the statement. Read the full statement here.

Even families of activists are not spared, as Ahmed Waqass Goraya, one of the five “bloggers” picked up last January and tortured, has found. “Men from Pakistani intelligence agency ISI visited my elderly parents in Pakistan yesterday 20th June. They said loud and clear that they have orders to abduct and torture my father and attack my family to teach me a lesson. This is not the first incident,” he posted on social media.

Such incidents have become “uncomfortably frequent” says Nosheen Abbas, country manager for the Coalition for Women in Journalism, Pakistan, commenting on the violation of Marvi Sirmed’s home. “It’s now a norm for authorities to harass journalists – we want to create a channel of dialogue and accountability instead of working under constant intimidation. We strongly condemn the constant threat of censorship through harassment and extra judicial methods by the state and ask that a proper investigation take place in to the incident of the break-in that took place at Marvi Sirmed’s house.” ND-Gul Bukhari censored

Earlier this month, prominent British-Pakistani journalist and activist Gul Bukhari, known for criticising the powerful military, was briefly abducted by unidentified men in Lahore but later released as netizens took to social media blaming the intelligence agencies for her forced disappearance.

Journalist Taha Siddiqui who was vocal against the military establishment escaped an abduction attempt by armed men in Islamabad and has gone into exile. Currently living in Paris, he has set up the platform to help understand the pressures South Asian journalists work under, starting with Pakistan.

Taha’s wife CWIJ member Sara Farid says that the manner in which Marvi’s house was attacked is part of “the recent organized campaign to silence the press. The intelligence agencies in Pakistan have been found involved in such acts in the past. This attempt to further intimidate and silence dissent in the lead up to elections shows how media is under attack. Without a free media there can be no free elections”.

My comment for CWIJ: “It’s not just journalists. Progressive activists in Pakistan have long been threatened, harassed and intimidated for going against the security state narrative about the ‘ideology’ of Pakistan. Those who uphold the idea of peace with neighbouring countries, particularly India, are targeted especially and termed as ‘traitors’. Raza Mahmood Khan, a peace activist, has been missing since Dec. 2, 2017. In his case too, his rented room was broken into and the CPU of his laptop taken when he was disappeared.” See more on this ongoing “intellecticide”.



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