Reporters Without Borders today welcomed the findings of a police investigation submitted to supreme court judge Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry yesterday clearing The News journalist Shakeel Anjum of any involvement in the murder of three arms traffickers. The judge, who had ordered the enquiry, dismissed all charges against Anjum.
The case dates back to May 2005 when Anjum, a crime reporter, wrote a story implicating a police officer, Idrees Rathore, in the summary execution of two youths. Rathore, who was never investigated in connection with the double murder, saw a chance for revenge when the three arms traffickers were murdered last month. He pressured a witness into saying that Anjum was corrupt and had intervened to get the forensic report changed.
Anjum’s investigative reporting is credited with helping to reduce corruption within the police force.
Police beat up, censor and harass journalists
Reporters Without Borders expressed indignation after police beat three TV journalists and then forced technicians to pull the plug on a report of the attack being shown on ARYONE World (ARY TV).
The assault on the three journalists - Wadood Mushtaq, Zahid Malik and Nazir Awan - and the subsequent censorship of the TV news occurred in Lahore, Punjab province on 16 September.
Elsewhere, a police officer accused a journalist on The News of murder in reprisal for an article he had written implicating him in extra-judicial killings.
The 16 September incident began when Wadood Mushtaq of ARY TV saw police attack Nazir Awan of ATV during a religious party rally in Lahore. He told his cameraman, Zahid Malik, to film the scene while he tried to intervene. Police then turned on the two journalists from ARY TV, raining blows on them before taking them to a police station.
At the insistence of the local authorities they were taken to hospital. Mushtaq had serious injuries to his face and jaw while Awan was left with a broken arm and swelling all over his body. The cameraman suffered a spinal injury.
Later the same evening, police from each district of Punjab ordered technicians of all the cable operators to cut the ARY TV broadcast which was showing footage on a loop of the police assault which it described as "torture".
A few hours later, Punjab’s Chief Minister, Pervaiz Elahi, suspended police officers Mukhtar and Younas Shah, who were implicated in the incidents. The organisation which regulates the electronic media, PEMRA, called the police order "illegal and un-constitutional".
"We were disturbed to hear about these press freedom violations committed by Pakistani police officers," the worldwide press freedom organisation said.
"Police assaulting journalists is sadly a common event in Pakistan, but for these same police officers to censor their media is utterly unacceptable. The government’s suspension of the two officers implicated in this case is an encouraging move, but which does nothing to hide the failure to impose more severe penalties in previous cases."
Elsewhere, Shakeel Anjum, who specialises in crime reporting for the daily The News - and whose home was recently targeted - has just been accused by police of involvement in a triple murder. He told Reporters Without Borders, "It’s a continuation of an old case."
He explained that the police officer, Idrees Rathore, was seeking revenge on him - over a May 2005 article about Rathore’s implication in the extra-judicial killing of two young men - by including the journalist’s name on a charge sheet in a murder case. Despite evidence put forward in Anjum’s article, the officer was never questioned.
Reporters Without Borders urged the government to take steps to remove the journalist’s name from the file and that Rathore be punished for this abuse of power.
"Both these cases reveal the difficult climate in which journalists in this country have to work," it added.
The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) called on the Pakistani government not to allow the country to drift into becoming a police state.