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Two Pakistani Journalists Allegedly Tortured By Paramilitary Force For Coronavirus Coverage

The journalists released photos of injuries allegedly received while under detention.
The journalists released photos of injuries allegedly received while under detention.

Media rights groups are calling for accountability after two Pakistani journalists accused paramilitary forces of torturing them for their reporting on poor conditions at a coronavirus quarantine center on the Afghan border.

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, said they were beaten while under detention for three days in Pakistan's Balochistan province.

Photos released on June 23 by the men, who are not related, show red marks on their backs.

Saeed Ali told RFE/RL’s Radio Mashaal that the two were reporting on the lack of food, water, and other basic facilities at a coronavirus quarantine center near the border city of Chaman.

They were then allegedly called to the paramilitary Frontier Corps command center on June 20 and handed over to an anti-terrorism force that took them to a jail and beat them.

Bashir Barechi, deputy commissioner of Qala-e-Abdullah district in Chaman, accused the journalists of spreading fake news and insulting him on social media. He said the journalists were detained for disrupting public order.

The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists called on the Balochistan government to conduct a judicial inquiry into the incident and demanded the arrest of any government official involved.

In a statement, press freedom group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said: “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.”

RSF says that journalists working in the Chaman area are constantly harassed for their work covering corruption and “every kind of trafficking” between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

RSF ranks Pakistan 145th out of 180 countries in its 2020 World Press Freedom Index.