Female journalist slapped in face by police officer during television report in Pakistan

Counter-claim accuses Saima Kanwal of 'hindering official work' after complaint

Lizzie Dearden
Saturday 22 October 2016 14:08 BST
Watch as a female anchor of K21 News Saima Kanwal slapped by a security guard

A journalist could be prosecuted for creating “hindrances in official work” after a police officer slapped her in the face during the recording of a news bulletin in Pakistan.

Saima Kanwal was reporting from the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) offices in Karachi for the K21 News channel when the officer attempted to stop filming.

Footage showed Ms Kanwal questioning the officer as a crowd gathered to watch the confrontation on Thursday.

The anchor then approached the man and appeared to touch his uniform, when he slapped her around the face, with the camera falling to the ground as gunfire and screaming could be heard.

A complaint was lodged against the Frontier Constabulary guard over charges of “conducting aerial firing and assaulting the modesty of a female reporter of K21 TV channel by slapping her”, a Gulbahar Police spokesman told Dunya News.

But officials at Nadra have now launched a counter-claim against Ms Kanwal.

A First Information Report (FIR) accuses the journalist and her crew of creating “hindrances in official work”, Dawn reported. Both claims are under investigation.

Footage of the attack has gone viral in Pakistan, triggering a debate about police brutality, violence against women and media ethics.

The furore continued on social media on Saturday, with some critics claiming Ms Kanwal “deserved” to be hit because she had touched the officer’s uniform.

Writing on Twitter, the journalist said she had been trying to show the man’s name badge and did not intend to assault him.

She also shared footage showing a pile of empty bullet casings allegedly fired into the air by the officer.

In a statement, K21 News condemned the incident. “The FC constable should have restrained himself as violence against women is not justifiable at all,” a spokesperson said.

Humanitarian groups have raised concern over attacks on journalists and freedom of expression constraints in Pakistan.

In its 2016 world report, Human Rights Watch said reporters were increasingly practicing self-censorship, “fearing retribution from both state security forces and militant groups”.

Investigators also found the Pakistani government took “inadequate action” to protect women and girls from abuses including rape, so-called honour killings, acid attacks, domestic violence and forced marriage.

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