Reporters Without Borders today firmly condemned police violence on 15 and 16 April in Karachi and Lahore against journalists covering a visit to Pakistan by opposition leader Asif Ali Zardari of the Pakistan People’s Party, or activities related to the visit.
"There was no justification for this use of violence against journalists doing their work or for the destruction of their equipment," the press freedom organization said in a letter to federal interior minister Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao. "This was a serious press freedom violation," the organization added, calling on the authorities to prosecute the police involved and to compensate the journalists for the loss of their equipment.
Reporters and photographers who went to Karachi railway station on 15 April to cover the departure of some 200 political activists for Lahore for Zardari’s arrival the next day found themselves being attacked with clubs by police and their cameras taken. Three journalists, Malik Munawar of the Daily Asas Karachi, Tasadduk Ghouri of the Janbaz Karachi daily newspaper and Yaseen Jabalpuri of APNA TV, were badly injured and taken to hospital.
Members of the Punjab province police commanded by two officers identified as Ahmed Mobeen and Aftab Cheema dealt in a similar fashion with some 50 Pakistani and international journalists who accompanied Zardari on his flight from Dubai.
The violence began as soon as Zardari left the plane, when around 200 policemen charged the journalists. Ahmed Mobeen himself struck the first blow against Mazhar Tufail, a journalist with the Pakistani television station GEO TV, before handing Tufail over to his men. The journalists were detained at the airport for more than three hours.
Journalists boycotted the national assembly’s session’s yesterday and today in protest and called on parliamentarians to pass a resolution condemning the Punjab province government for this use of violence by its police force against journalists.