News

June 23, 2020

Two Pakistani reporters tortured for covering quarantine centre on Afghan border

Journalist Abdul Mateen Achakzai (left, up) and his colleague Saeed Ali Achakzai (left, down) shows signs of torture in Quetta Press Club after Balochistan paramilitary forces (right) arrested them in Chaman border town on 20 June 2020 (photos: Freedom Network – Banaras Khan / AFP).
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on the authorities in Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan province to order a judicial investigation to identify who was responsible for torturing two TV reporters while they were held for three days by a paramilitary force, and to bring the torturers to justice.

Saeed Ali Achakzai, a reporter for the Urdu-language Samaa News TV, and Abdul Mateen Achakzai, a reporter for the Pashtun-language Khyber News TV,  finally reappeared this morning with their bodies covered with the marks of torture, four days after being called to the Frontier Corps command centre in Chaman, a city near the Afghan border, at 8 p.m. on 20 June.

 

“We were blindfolded and taken to a place where we were handed over to the Anti-Terrorism Force that is operated by the Balochistan Levies, and the ATF took us to the notorious Machh prison and tortured us there to the point that you can see signs of the torture on our back,” Abdul Mateen Achakzai told RSF.

 

The Balochistan Levies are a paramilitary gendarmerie that often operates in a completely illegal manner. The Levies were asked to intervene in this case by the deputy commissioner of the Chaman police, who didn’t like the way the two reporters had covered a quarantine centre located at the border.

 

Constant harassment

 

Achakzai added: “We had been getting WhatsApp messages threatening us with arrest, because the deputy commissioner and paramilitary force commanders were unhappy with our coverage of a public protest against the poor facilities at the quarantine centre.”

 

“It is absolutely unacceptable that representatives of the security forces should commit acts of torture simply because they didn’t like what these two journalists reported,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk. “We call on Balochistan chief minister Jam Kamal Khan to order a judicial enquiry into those responsible for their abduction so that this shocking press freedom violation does not remain unpunished. The credibility of the rule of law in Pakistan is at stake.”

 

Journalists working in the Chaman region are constantly subjected to considerable harassment because it is a hub of every kind of trafficking between Pakistan and Afghanistan with the complicity of local politicians and the security forces. For journalists to cover a story linked to this corruption often means risking their lives.

 

Pakistan is ranked 145th out of 180 countries and territories in RSF's 2020 World Press Freedom Index, three places lower than in 2019.