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Pakistan 15 November 2004

Four journalists arrested, one radio station closed

Reporters Without Borders is concerned at a wave of arrests of journalists and closure of one of Pakistan’s few privately-run radio stations.

The worldwide press freedom organisation has written to the prime minister Shaukat Aziz urging the release of the journalists who are still behind held and for FM Radio 103 to be reopened.

Police arrested Farhat Abbas Shah and Afaq Shah, journalists on FM Radio 103 on 10 November at their radio’s studios in Lahore, Punjab province in the east of the country. They were released on bail the next day.

Two days later, around 20 police raided the station and seized equipment, making it impossible for it to continue broadcasting. They also arrested two staff members, reportedly Abdul Ghafoor and Nauman. The radio chiefly broadcasts programmes from the BBC World Service Urdu-language service.

According to the Pakistan Press Club, the two radio journalists were arrested for broadcasting a report on a scandal at the Punjab cardiology institute. They were reportedly maltreated in the first hours of their detention.

Police accused them both of taking part in a demonstration in front of a public building but the station director said that Farhat Abbas Shah had not been involved in the demonstration.

(JPEG) On 6 November, Qazi Muhammad Rauf (picture), correspondent for the Urdu-language daily Express in the north-eastern Khyber Agency tribal zone, was seized by armed men and held for 24 hours by members of Sheikhmalkel tribe angry at what they saw as a biased article.

Rauf had reported on clashes between the tribe and a fundamentalist religious organisation Amr Bill Maroof Wa Nahee Anil Munkar in the tribal area. Around a dozen armed men abducted Rauf took him to a private detention centre where they beat and then chained him.

The authorities intervened following a tip off from his colleagues in the Tribal Union of Journalists and persuaded the tribal leaders to release him, on 7 November.

Police in Skardo in the north-east arrested editor of a banned magazine Kargil International, Ghulam Shehzad Agha, on 4 November. The authorities reportedly accuse the journalist and political activist of backing autonomy for the Pakistani part of Jammu and Kashmir. The Pakistani interior ministry banned the magazine that he ran on 8 September 2004, charging that it carried seditious and unpatriotic news.

Elsewhere, Sarwar Mujahid, correspondent for the conservative Urdu-language daily Nawa-I-Waqt in Okara district in the east of the country was freed on 12 October 2004. He was arrested and detained on 31 July 2004 at Sahiwal prison in Punjab province.

Mujahid was held under the Maintenance of Public Order law. His detention appeared to be linked to his articles about a conflict between Pakistani paramilitaries and tenant farmers who have for years farmed land belonging to the army.




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