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Muzzling Baloch voices: Pakistan bans website of Balochistan rights group

ANI | Updated: May 12, 2020 08:16 IST

Balochistan [Pakistan], May 12 (ANI): Pakistani authorities have imposed an indefinite ban on the official website of Human Rights Commission of Balochistan.
According to the Balochistan Post, a local media agency, the human rights group claims to be a non-profit human rights organisation operating in the province; a region that already suffers from strict levels of media restriction. They also have firm bases in foreign countries like Sweden, the UK and France.
From the past few years, the group has been actively working in Balochistan to collect information about the ongoing human rights abuses and report them to the international media and organisations. They employed "a network of volunteers and supporters" that assemble and communicate information from the remotest corners of Balochistan, the media reported further.
As per The Balochistan Post news desk; authorities have banned the group's official website in Pakistan. If attempted to access, the website states that: "Surf Safely! The site you are trying to access contains content that is prohibited for viewership from within Pakistan."
In an official statement, the Commission exhibited shock on this act and mentioned that they are a fair and unbiased "human rights organisation" and not "a party to the war in Balochistan."
Media restriction is not a new phenomenon in Balochistan. Despite transparent and fair reporting, The Balochistan Post network is also banned in Pakistan. The subscribers to the media are obliged to use technical stratagem to bypass restrictions and access our websites - like using VPNs or online proxies. Some other media and human rights organisations are also banned in Pakistan.
Journalist bodies and rights group allege that "Balochistan functions under abysmal media restrictions: public opinion is suppressed, political dissent is confronted with brute force and freedom of speech is curtailed."
According to many campaign groups, "human rights activists, political dissidents and journalists are constantly harassed through the misuse of Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act in Balochistan. Any kind of information relevant to the Law Enforcement Agencies is considered "harmful" and, therefore, its propagations is forbidden. Furthermore, any information about CPEC is also withheld and its dissemination is deemed an issue of "national security". Cellular networks and the internet are frequently cut off for "security reasons"."
Talking to the Post, a renowned activist from Balochistan on condition of anonymity said, "human rights abuses are mainstream in Balochistan.
"Under the pretexts of "counter-insurgency" or "re-establishment of peace", security forces have executed uncountable misdeeds. Enforced disappearances are a major human rights issue in Balochistan. Despite the promising negotiations with the authorities, such disappearances continue unabated," he added.
"Baloch activists have also believed to be abducted from foreign countries, like Sweden or UAE. Such disappearances compelled Mama Qadeer Baloch - a renowned human rights activist from Balochistan - to break a world record by marching from Quetta to Islamabad. Mama Qadeer and his organization, Voice for Baloch Missing Persons (VBMP), are protesting in front of the Quetta press club for the past ten years," the activist was quoted as saying. (ANI)


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