LAHORE:(APS) February 10, 2017: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has expressed grave concern over a vicious campaign by a TV anchorperson against several renowned journalists and rights defenders in a tirade that has been going on for weeks.
In a statement issued on Friday, the Commission said: “HRCP has been horrified by the licence given to Mr. Amir Liaquat on a private TV channel to ridicule renowned journalists and social activists and, even more dangerously, to incite violence against them. Anchorpersons Najam Sethi and Muneeb Farooq have been specially targeted, in addition to dozens of respected journalists and civil society activists being criticized, maligned or ridiculed. It is troubling that expressions such as sedition, treason and blasphemy are being thrown around in an already intolerant atmosphere.
“The venomous preaching of hate seems to have been already followed by a dozen or so small demonstrations and lodging of a number of cases on sedition charges against respected journalists who have dared to comment on some of the policies of powerful institutions of the state.
“HRCP has serious concerns not only about the safety of the targeted journalists, including Mr. Sethi, but also the application of sedition charges against them which many now see as a thinly veiled ploy to silence respected journalists.
“At a time when tackling hate speech in Pakistan is supposedly one of the nation’s top priorities under the National Action Plan (NAP), those in authority must not remain mere spectators to this spectacle. A failure to rein in this daily campaign to malign respected journalists, followed closely by staging of small demonstrations and lodging of sedition cases raises many questions.
“We hope that the days of lending official support or acquiescence to such practices are now history. For if that is not the case then we have not really learned any lessons from the policies that have wrought such unprecedented havoc in the country in recent years.
“While this unbridled campaign has inevitably ended up in court, such proceedings must address concerns for the safety of the people targeted by the said anchorperson.
“HRCP hopes and expects the government to condemn unequivocally this despicable campaign and put an immediate end to it. It must also ensure that the journalists and civil society activists facing the verbal assault are protected from a very clear threat of physical attacks. Those behind the hatemongering must be brought to justice. Doing that would serve as a lesson for all, while a failure to act would only embolden others to indulge in mud-slinging and hate-spewing to further their agendas.”