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Pakistan 15 April 2002

At least twenty-five journalists attacked while leaving President Musharraf’s campaign meeting

In a letter to Pakistan’s Minister of Information, Nisar A. Memon, Reporters sans frontières (Reporters Without Borders - RSF) has denounced the police attack on more than twenty-five journalists as they left a meeting organised by President Pervez Musharraf in Faisalabad. "At the start of the referendum campaign, the use of such methods with regard to the press does not augur well for the climate in which this election - a crucial one for Pakistan - is to take place," states Robert Ménard, General Secretary of RSF. The organisation for press freedom urged the Minister of Information to do his utmost to ensure that the inquiry launched by the President will be completed and that those responsible for such brutality will be punished.

image 180 x 131 (JPEG) According to information received by RSF, at least 25 journalists were injured, three seriously, on 14 April 2002 as they left President Musharraf’s campaign meeting held in Faisalabad (in the Punjab province in the East of the country). The Governer of the province, Khalid Maqbool, had opened the meeting, which took place in the Iqbal Stadium, with a diatribe against the Pakistani press. Newspapermen were guilty in his view of "committing contempt of the public by publishing fake reports on attendance", notably concerning the numbers of people attending the President’s meeting in Lahore. The Governor had incited the crowd to vent their disapproval of the journalists present, in an attempt to denounce the "misreporting and irresponsible attitude of the mediamen". The journalists, gathered together in the area reserved for the press, left the meeting shouting anti-government slogans, and decided to organise a protest march. image 180 x 128 (JPEG) They were booed by the crowd as they left the building. At this point, according to one witness, the district chief of police, Arshad Dogar, ordered the policemen present to charge the group of reporters. Someone in authority, states this same witness, had ordered the police to "do something to make the journalists pay for their attempted boycott". More than 25 journalists were clubbed by police using truncheons. A.R. Shuja, Tahir Rashee, Tasneem, all journalists on the daily Khabrain, Mian Aslam, journalist on the daily Business Report, Mehtabuddin Nishat, journalist on the Daily Ghareeb, Ch. Safraz Sahi of Insaaf, Malik Naeem of the daily Parwaz, Naseer Chema and Muhammad Bilal of the daily Current Report, Ramzan Nasir of the daily Tehrik, Mayed Ali of the daily The News, Roman Ihsang of the daily Jang, Nasir Butt and Khalid of the Daily Pakistan, Mian Saeef of the daily Ausaf, Jawed Saddiqui of the daily Musawat, Saeed Qadri of the daily Din, Mian Rifaat Qadri, of the press agency News International Network (NNI), Jawed Malik of the paper Soorat-i-Hal, Ashfaq Jahangir of the daily Parwaz. Sarfraz Ahmad Sahi, Bureau Chief of the daily Insaf, Mian Nadeem, journalist for the independent press agency Online, and Mehtabbudin, journalist for a local newspaper published in Urdu, suffered head injuries. However, the hospitals have been ordered by the authorities not to deliver medical certificates, which are required if FIRs (First Information Reports) are to be filed, to journalists who ask for them.

In his statement made the same day, the Minister of Information, Nisar A. Memon, said that President Musharraf was taking the incident very seriously and had immediately launched an inquiry so as to punish "those police officers who had infringed the law".

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