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IFJ Condemns Inflammatory Broadcast and Link to Murders in Pakistan
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is horrified to learn that two people belonging to a minority religious sect in Pakistan were murdered shortly after a broadcaster on one of the country’s main television channels urged viewers to kill “blasphemers” and “apostates” as a religious duty.
According to available information, Amir Liaqat Hussain, anchoring a program on religion on the widely viewed GEO TV on September 7, declared that the murder of members of the Ahmadi sect was the righteous duty of people of the Islamic faith.
He followed up by urging two other participants on his program, who belonged to different denominations of Islam, to endorse his viewpoint. Hussain, who is a former minister for religious affairs in Pakistan’s federal government, reportedly obtained the endorsement he sought.
On September 9, Hussain answered a query on a phone-in program with the comment that those guilty of the alleged sin of blasphemy should be put to death.
Within 18 hours of the first broadcast, Abdul Manan Siddiqui, a physician in the city of Mirpur Khas, in Sindh province, was murdered. He was the head of the Ahmadi community in Mirpur Khas, according to news reports.
The doctor was reportedly called out of his clinic on the afternoon of September 8 by six people who claimed to have brought a patient. Siddiqui was shot 11 times and died on the spot. His private guard and a woman passer-by were also injured in the attack.
The following day, Sheikh Muhammad Yousaf, a 75-year-old rice trader and district chief of the Ahmadi sect, was killed in the city of Nawab Shah, also in Sindh province. He was reportedly shot at by motorcycle borne assailants.
The IFJ joins its affiliate, the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), in condemning the incitement to violence apparent in the language used by Hussain and his two interlocutors.
“Under legal standards for curbing hate speech in the media, the burden of proof is on Amir Liaqat Hussain and the channel that broadcast his program to establish that they do not bear some responsibility for the murder of two innocent men,” IFJ Asia-Pacific said.
“Media outlets must implement measures to ensure their content abides by ethical principles, including curbs on hate speech, both in the interests of promoting tolerance and also to ensure there is no opening for state authorities to intervene in the expression of fair comment.”
The IFJ welcomes the PFUJ’s initiative in drafting a code of professional ethics and opening discussions with other stakeholders in the Pakistan media to seek agreement on measures for the code’s implementation, including by establishing an independent Media Complaints Commission.
For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +612 9333 0919
The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 122 countries