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Pakistan 19 January 2005

Ten journalists injured as religious students raid Lahore Press Club

Reporters Without Borders demanded an explanation from the chief minister of Punjab Province after police failed to intervene as young religious militants of the Imamia Students Organisation (ISO) raided Lahore Press Club, injuring ten journalists.

Police stood by on 14 January as the demonstrators, angry at what they saw as inadequate press coverage of the murder in the north of the country of Shiite leader Agha Ziauddin, raided the club beating journalists and stoning and firebombing the building.

The officers took 30 minutes to react and although they eventually made 40 arrests nobody has yet been charged.

Demanding an explanation for the police inaction, the worldwide press freedom organisation said in a letter to the provincial chief minister, Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, "Their duty was to protect journalists. We call on you see there is a thorough investigation to find out the exact circumstances of these assaults."

The militants first set upon journalist Asghar Butt, preventing him from entering the club. They then beat and injured nine colleagues who came to his assistance. They were: Amir Mughal, Muazzam Bhatti, Rai Hasnain Tahir, Shadab Riaz, Shujaat Hamid, Abdul Ghafoor, Amir Sohail, Shoib Ahmad and Ijab Mirza.

The militants then streamed into the club’s courtyard, throwing stones and firebombs at the building, breaking windows and damaging vehicles parked there.

Police who were on the spot did not react to shouts for help from the journalists only finally intervening to break up the crowd after half an hour of mayhem.

Lahore Press Club president, Arshad Ansari, told Reporters Without Borders on the phone that if nobody was charged he would call for a day of action throughout the country. "This is the first time in Pakistan’s history that a religious organisation has attacked a press club in this way," he said.

The Lahore club is the second oldest press club in the country, after that in Karachi.

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