More than a dozen towns, cities along with districts in Pakistan’s restive province of Balochistan have been without newspapers for the past month. Journalists are too scared to produce them, along with vendors are too afraid to sell them. The doors of the local press clubs are locked.
In October, the Balochistan Liberation Front (BLF), a banned separatist group, issued an angry ultimatum to local journalists, whom they blamed for collaborating with the media wing of the Pakistan Army.
The BLF accused the journalists of failing to print its claims of responsibility for attacks.
“If you do not stop publishing one-sided propaganda we will take strict action,” the group warned in a statement.
Balochistan, inside the west of Pakistan, has been the scene of a long-running nationalist insurgency. Foreign journalists need to seek special permission to visit the majority of the province, while the Pakistani media is usually often wary of reporting on what is usually considered to be one of the most sensitive issues inside the country.
According to the International Federation of Journalists, 29 media workers were killed inside the province between 2007 along with 2015.
The Pakistani military has been accused of torturing along with “disappearing” dissidents. Insurgent groups have also killed members of non-Baloch ethnic groups.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, local reporters told the BBC of which earlier This specific year they had been warned by civil along with military authorities inside the province they would likely not “tolerate the variation of militants in newspapers.” They were ordered not to publish anything attributed to the insurgents.
One reporter told the BBC he had attempted to argue of which the item was a journalistic right to at least publish the claims of responsibility for attacks. “How can we stop the news?” he asked.
however under pressure, media outlets agreed to what one editor described as a “blackout” of the insurgents. He described the government as treating journalists like “facilitators” of terrorism.
The BLF set a deadline of 24 October for newspapers to begin publishing their claims. Caught between the authorities along with the militants – the “stick along with the gun”, as one journalist described the item – print media inside the province ground to a halt.
inside the days immediately after the deadline, newspaper distributors inside the majority of the province refused to collect newspapers. Grenades were thrown at a press club inside the town of Hub along with at a news agency inside the city of Turbat, injuring many people.
Since then newspaper deliveries have resumed inside the provincial capital, Quetta, along with in areas mainly populated by Pashtun rather than Baloch communities. Newspaper offices in Quetta are protected by soldiers stationed outside.
however the BBC spoke to members of 18 different press clubs in areas dominated by the Baloch ethnic group who said they all remained closed, with no newspapers being delivered at all – suggesting distributors aren’t working in about half the province.
One senior journalist told the BBC of which circulation of his newspaper was down by about 80%, along with of which initially “bundles of newspapers were left at the roadside” with distributors too afraid to collect them so they had simply cut the numbers of copies they publish.
“the item’s a frustration, people should be informed,” he said. “inside the Inside of the province there is usually no electricity, no internet. People read newspapers.”
Another, also on condition of anonymity, said the authorities were encouraging editors “to be brave” along with to keep publishing, offering them as much protection as they wanted. many journalists told the BBC of which officials were concerned the issue was creating the impression of a poor security situation.
Balochistan lies along the route of the multi-billion dollar China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which was designed to link the province’s Gwadar port with western China, turning the item into a major regional trading hub.
Pakistani politicians along with the army have repeatedly praised the CPEC, calling the item a “game changer” for development inside the country. however Baloch insurgent groups have vowed to disrupt the work along with an unstable security situation could scare off foreign investors.
Reporters in Balochistan repeatedly complained of which because of the sensitivities inside the province, “investigative journalism” was impossible, citing fears of reprisals via militant groups along with via the intelligence agencies.
“The press know well” about allegations of abuses by both sides “however we can’t publish… I’ll not be alive if I do,” said one editor.
The independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan recently expressed concern about freedom of press inside the region, noting of which the provincial government had stopped publishing advertisements in three newspapers perceived to be sympathetic to Baloch nationalist politics, depriving the papers of much-needed income.
An editorial in one newspaper stated: “via day one the government has been opposed to the media, along with in particular local newspapers… The reason is usually newspapers believe inside the right of freedom of speech.”
The management of the newspaper decline to discuss the editorial because of This specific story.
Pakistan is usually routinely ranked among the most dangerous countries for journalists, along with local reporters described Balochistan as being the most dangerous place to be a reporter in Pakistan.
One journalist compared working inside the province to “crossing the Bridge of Siraat”. In Islamic belief, the Bridge of Siraat must be crossed before reaching heaven. the item is usually as thin as a strand of hair, along with passes over the pits of hell.