Ban on media reporting from Orakzai Agency continues

K-P govt urged to immediately lift ban that has been in place since November 2017

Asad Zia March 20, 2018
K-P govt urged to immediately lift ban that has been in place since November 2017

PESHAWAR: Journalists have been barred from visiting or reporting from the Orakzai Agency's tribal areas for the last five months, an issue the Freedom Network (FN), Pakistan's first media watchdog organisation, has raised.

The restriction was first put in place in November 2017, a "violation of people's fundamental right to know", FN added in the Press Freedom Alert, calling on Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) Governor Iqbal Zafar Jhagra, who serves as the administrative head of the Federally Administrative Tribal Areas (Fata) to repeal the ban immediately.

"FN calls on K-P Governor Iqbal Zafar Jhagra ... to help lift the ban and return journalism to Orakzai region," the statement read.

"When security has improved as the government itself acknowledges, this ban on journalists to visit the area and report makes little sense," FN added in the statement, arguing that the ban is working against the people who need the information to stay safe.

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People also need access to information to make decisions and rebuild their lives affected by militancy in the conflict-ridden region, the FN said.

Local paramilitary force commanders and journalists informed FN that the rationale behind the ban remains unknown to them.

Saleh Din, president of the Orakzai Press Club, said the ban on journalists was enforced in November 2017, after which no journalist was allowed to report from Orakzai for the regional as well as national media.

Ghaljo Press Club that operated from inside the Orakzai Agency also remains closed due to a ban on any kind of reporting from the area.

Journalists from the area registered their protest with the region's political agent Khalid Iqbal Wazir last year, and as recently as January 2018, the senior official "promised" to take up the issue with local commanders.

However, the ban remains in place.

"This ban on journalism negates the civil and military leadership's declared position that peace 'has been restored to Orakzai', and many temporary displaced families returned to their homes.

"But restricting journalists' access to Orakzai is a serious matter of concern," the FN added.

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Media acts as a bridge between the government and the public, the press freedom watchdog said.

"The government authorities, including security, must be trying to engage the public to help keep peace. This cannot be done in absence of media and its practitioners," the watchdog added.

"Freedom Network hopes the authorities concerned would take a closer look at this ban and allow media to return to Orakzai and play its due role in helping the government maintain peace and rebuild [people's] lives," the alert said.


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