On the seventh anniversary of the 2014 terrorist attack on Army Public School (APS), the parents of the martyred students held a protest outside the office of a private news channel in Peshawar for airing what they called “propaganda”.
Approximately 70 protesters gathered at the ARY News’ Peshawar bureau office on Shami Road at noon on Thursday and tried to enter the premises, stating that the channel was continuously airing “fake” news about the families of the martyred students.
The protesters were led by Shahana Ajoon, the mother of a victim of the APS tragedy. They blocked the office’s gate for almost 90 minutes and chanted slogans against the news organisation.
Speaking to Dawn.com, Ajoon said that she woke up at 6:30am on the anniversary of the attack and saw that ARY News was airing “fake news” that the families of the martyred children had received millions of rupees and other perks from the government.
Ajoon alleged that the news was aired in an effort to divert attention from their actual demands. She went on to say that the parents of the martyred students were ready to return the compensation money if the government accepted their demands for justice, which she said had also been communicated during a recent Supreme Court hearing to which Prime Minister Imran Khan was also summoned.
The parents have demanded that civil and military officials, responsible for security measures at the school, be held accountable. They have also demanded that an FIR of the incident should be registered, arguing that even though the attackers had been eliminated, those responsible for ensuring security were never called to account.
The parents had said they were not interested in any kind of compensation, but wanted that those responsible for the massacre were brought to justice.
Ajoon recalled that after the attack, the PTI-led provincial government at the time had announced that the families would receive Rs0.5 million as compensation that was later increased to Rs2m.
“All the parents are ready [to return the compensation money]. They just want justice,” she said.
After the news was aired, Ajoon and her husband shared their concerns with other victims’ parents which, according to her, sent a “wave of sadness” among them on the anniversary of the attack.
“The channel was misleading the public by airing propaganda,” she claimed, adding that this had compelled the parents to record their protest.
Her husband, Ajoon Khan, said that the APS incident had “completely changed us”. He said that airing such news on the anniversary of the attack was “beyond their understanding”. Khan added that all the parents were on the same page and wanted justice.
Meanwhile, a Peshawar Press Club office-bearer reached the ARY office along with other officials to talk to the protesters.
According to Ajoon, the press club officials told the parents that the bureau office did not play a part in airing the news, adding that it was aired from the channel’s head office in Karachi.
The parents ended their protest after the press club officials told them that they would pursue the issue with higher-ups at the channel.
When contacted, a spokesperson for ARY News said that the channel stood by the information it had aired, adding that it was based on “government sources”.
The spokesperson said that their representatives had listened to the grievances of the parents and included their stance on the matter in the news package.