Gul Bukhari abducted for hours in Pakistan. The government should stop intimidating women journalists, as elections approach.

On Tuesday night, June 6th, our fellow journalist in Pakistan, Gul Bukhari was abducted for several hours, by what we are told by sources, “unidentified persons.” We learnt from police sources that Gul Bukhari was on her way to the Waqt TV studio on Queen’s Road to appear in a television show when “she was intercepted and abducted on Sherpao Bridge in Lahore’s Cantonment area.” Bukhari is an analyst on Waqt TV and a contributing writer at The Nation newspaper.

After the abduction, journalist Umar Cheema tweeted, “Waqt TV driver was bringing @gulbukhari to channel office for an 11pm show when intercepted by 4-6 double cabins. They asked Gul to come out and bundled her in the double cabin blindfolded, according to @Gul_sher112 who produces show attended by Gul. #GulBukhari.”

During the abduction, the police claimed having no knowledge of Gul Bukhari’s whereabouts and also denied keeping her under their custody. She was later released and arrived safely to her family. Some of our sources say they suspect ‘the authorities’ or ‘the state’ to be behind this incident. If true, we are outraged at the country’s failure to protect it’s journalists.

Women journalists in Pakistan are increasingly under attack. “This abduction is a warning ahead of elections. Women journalists doing important work in Pakistan are increasingly becoming targets of state intimidation, their work on critical issues is being obstructed,” said CFWIJ founder Kiran Nazish. This is not the first time a woman journalist has been physically abducted, he says, “not long ago, a young journalist Zeenat Shahzadi was abducted and kept in custody for two years. She recently returned, the authorities said, but we were unable to confirm. We tried finding ways to reach her to ensure her safety, but could not. We are told she is under the protection of authorities. But we doubt that.”

Gul Bukhari is also one of the many women journalists in Pakistan who have been targeted for their work critical of the military establishment. Often this targeting has been through vicious online trolls,   campaigning to harassing women journalist specific to their gender. Bukhari in the past has also been trolled by a sexually provocative and pornographic campaign against her.

Our founder Kiran Nazish was also threatened in Pakistan, which led her to live in self-exile for many years. Another member of the Coalition Saba Eitizaz also sought asylum in Canada after facing perpetual threats in the country.

The Coalition For Women In Journalism condemns these continuous attacks and intimidation towards journalists and demands the government to do everything in their power to investigate who was behind the abduction.

CFWIJ member Jill Langlois said, “This type of behavior toward journalists is unacceptable, and we cannot ignore the frequency with which this happens in Pakistan, especially to freelance women journalists.”

Gul Bukhari has been vocal about the controversial issue of Pashtun struggle and the recent Pushtun uprise in Pakistan. She has also been critical of the military and controversial intelligence agencies of the country.

In the run-up to election, concerns about freedom of expression and press censorship grow in the country. We demand the government to take useful steps to protect journalists from such attacks during this critical time.

CFWIJ member Corinne Redfern said, “This abduction is just one of so, so many examples of unjustifiable abuse against journalists and the free press in recent months. The release of Gul on this occasion shouldn’t detract from the unlawful act of detaining her in the first place. It’s crucial that we continue to work together to take a stand against this behaviour and fight for the safety of women journalists all over the world.”

In April, a report said the Pakistani media are regarded as among the most vibrant in Asia but due to pressure being exerted by extremist groups and intelligence agencies they are increasingly resorting to self-censorship.

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The original press statement by The Coalition of Women in Journalism can be seen here


Abduction of Pakistani journalist Gul Bukhari

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