Reporters sans frontières (alias Reporters Without Borders or RSF) released a statement on July 8 where it warned the Pakistani government to not threaten the journalists living abroad. Citing a ‘leaked Pakistani government internal memo’, the Paris-based watchdog warned that if any ill befall the threatened journalists, Pakistan will be held responsible.
According to the details, RSF, an international non-profit and non-governmental organization advocating for the ‘freedom of information’, claims of obtaining a facsimile of a ‘leaked’ memo of the Pakistani government that names six journalists – five Pakistanis and one Afghan – of damaging Pakistan’s ‘foreign interests.’
The memo accuses the aforesaid journalists of disseminating “rhetoric against Pakistan” and of being “involved in various activities in Europe and America which are seriously damaging Pakistan’s foreign interests abroad.”
The leaked memo, according to RSF, accuses the journalists of “either participating in anti-Pakistan activities or producing anti-state content” for foreign media under pseudonyms. The memo then addresses the journalists and says: “you are requested to strictly follow [their] movements and social media accounts.” If the journalists persist, they may be “approached through proper channels to stop such rhetoric against Pakistan in future.”
According to the RSF, the memo is addressed to five recipients: Director-General of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the Director-General of Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), the Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Information and Broadcasting, the Director-General of Military Intelligence, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It is unclear, claims RSF, who leaked this document. Unlike an official document, the memo was not circulated within the Interior Ministry. Instead, it was directed only to five recipients, suggesting that it was a ‘working document.’ The memo had been circulating within the ISI since 2019.
Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk, opines that the memo could’ve been released by the Pakistani state to ‘intimidate’ the journalists. “Let’s not be fooled, the Pakistani intelligence agencies could have leaked this document in an attempt to poison public opinion and intimidate the journalists it names.”
Bastard said that the “sinister” nature of the memo is “extremely shocking.” “We [RSF] will pay close attention to the safety of the reporters named in this memo and we will know who to hold responsible if any of them, or a member of their family, is subjected to threats or intimidation.”
The RSF also claims that the incidents of targeting the Pakistani journalists overseas have surged in 2020, the most serious of which was the abduction and the subsequent murder of Sajid Hussain, the antemortem editor of The Balochistan Times, in Sweden. Even though the Swedish police have not confirmed, it is suspected that the Hussain’s death was related to his reporting of the Drug trafficking, human rights abuses and the insurgency in Balochistan.
According to an earlier report of RSF; more than one journalist a month in Balochistan have been killed in connection with their work since the start of 2012.
Ahmad Waqas Goraya, an exiled Pakistani blogger living in the Netherlands, wad also threatened and attacked in Rotterdam. Goraya claims that the methods of the attackers “fit the modus operandi of Pakistani spy agencies.”
Pakistan is a dangerous country for journalism. In the latest RSF World Press Freedom Index, Pakistan ranked 145th out of 180 countries.
Numbers of journalists have been reported missing, target killed and threatened in the country, for which almost all of the victims hold Pakistani army and intelligence services responsible.