The true frontline workers of any political movement or rally are the journalists as they serve as a bridge of information between the people and political leaders. They are also more often than not caught in the middle when protests turn violent as they did during Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) rally on May 25.
“In my nine years of journalistic career, I have never seen the kind of fervor that the PTI supporters showed yesterday,” said Aaj News reporter Usman Muzaffar, from Islamabad. “Usually, only religious parties have this kind of support. People of Islamabad never come out for political parties but yesterday families stood at the motorway toll plaza just to catch a glimpse of Imran Khan.”
He went on to say: “I have also not seen the kind of shelling that happened at D-Chowk yesterday. Some of them landed on our DSNG.”
At least 11,000 tear gas shells were fired in the morning and 13,000 at night at Islamabad’s D-Chowk according to sources, but Aaj News could not independently verify the figure.
Protesters attacked an Aaj News DSNG in Islamabad and hit it with sticks. The reporting team from Hum News also came under attack from protesters and their DSNG’s windscreen was smashed.
“TV personalities who take strong political stances, do not bear the brunt of their statements,” Muzaffar added. “It is usually the reporter or the team in the field that has to pay the price.”
A Neo News team from Peshawar was attacked in Islamabad, with their DSNG being hit with sticks, Aaj News reporter from Peshawar, Azm Rehman said. The team was not allowed to cover the long march either and there were threats of violence to the driver and reporter.
In Karachi, the Samaa News team was physically attacked and their camera was broken. The now unusable camera contained footage of protestors setting a police van on fire. Samaa’s reporters Zam Zam Saeed, Yasir Hussain and cameraman Imran Khan were physically attacked. Their DSNG was spared, however, Samaa reporter Zeeshan Mughal told Aaj News.
At Lahore’s Liberty Chowk, the Aaj News DSNG was attacked and its windows were broken. The assistant DSNG operator was physically attacked. Pakistan Federal Union of Journalist President GM Jamali, while condemning attacks on journalists, mentioned one on PTV reporter Syed Moazzamuddin and his team.
Photojournalist Amjad Hussain was attacked during the protests.
AFP photojournalist Asif Hassan was caught in the clashes between police and protestors. A stone meant for the police hit him in the head. The resulting gash required five stitches.
Pakistan is one of the most dangerous countries for journalists, with Reporters Sans Frontieres ranking Pakistan 145 out of 180 countries on the 2021 World Press Freedom Index.