Reporters Without Borders protested strongly today about an attack by supporters of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League (PML-QA) on Peshawar’s press club, in which several journalists and others were injured.
It deplored the 29 June attack on what it called a "symbolic and traditionally peaceful place" by people who were "easy to identify" and called for them to be arrested and punished. "At this delicate time after journalist Hayatullah Khan’s murder, it is very important that journalists are protected when doing their job," the worldwide press freedom organisation said.
The party militants attacked the building during a press conference given by three dissident party figures. Journalists offered to let them speak after the dissidents, but they rejected the offer and set about journalists, employees and dissident supporters with sticks and AK47 rifles. Police arrested six of the attackers and seized weapons.
The press club has been attacked before but this was the first time by supporters of the ruling party. Local journalists said it was an attempt to stop the press doing its job, especially investigating Hayatullah Khan’s murder. Press club president Syed Bukhar Shah told Reporters Without Borders it was "an act of terrorism."
The journalists have started legal action against the attackers under the anti-terrorist law and also filed a complaint against federal minister of political affairs Amir Muqaam, who is head of the provincial branch of the PML-QA, and against one of the party’s provincial MPs, Nighat Orakzai.
Elsewhere, journalists Khalil Afridi, of the Urdu-language daily Khabrian, Sudhir Afridi, of the daily Frontier Post, and Abu Zar Afridi, of the Urdu-language daily Express, were held for a day on 26 June by the authorities in the Khyber Tribal Area. They had just interviewed a religious leader being sought by the security services.
Asif Wadood, an investigative reporter for the Urdu-language daily Aaj, was summoned by officials of the provincial chief minister’s office in Peshawar on 16 June after revealing details of the budget of the province, which is run by the Islamist MMA party. They tried to make him reveal his sources but he refused.