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Pakistan 4 June 2002

The News journalist harassed following revelation of media bill

"In harassing a journalist who has merely been exercising his right to inform the Pakistani public about a controversial bill, the government is making a gross error," asserts Robert Ménard, Secretary-General of Reporters Without Borders (Reporters Sans Frontières). In a letter to Pakistan’s Information Minister, Aziz Memon, the organisation calls for an immediate halt to the surveillance under which journalist Rauf Klasra has been placed and the threats he has received. "If the safety of Rauf Klasra or that of his family were to be put at risk, the Pakistani government could be held directly responsible," concludes Robert Ménard.

Reporters Without Borders has also called upon the Information Minister to make a public statement about the defamation bill which, if it were to become law, would represent a threat to the freedom of the press in Pakistan.

According to information gathered by the organisation, Rauf Klasra of the Islamabad daily The News, was under surveillance and has been threatened by Pakistani secret service agents since he revealed in the paper on 29 May 2002 the existence of a libel bill that would allow heavy prison sentences to be given to journalists. The English-language newspaper published a draft of the bill, drawn up by the Law and Justice Ministry, a copy of which had been obtained by the journalist. This revelation provoked a general outcry on the part of the editors of Pakistan’s major publications. The journalist’s home and office were under surveillance during five days and senior officials have warned Rauf Klasra to "pay attention to the content of the articles" he writes. An unmarked car (registration number MNO 7286) was following the journalist’s movements. After Najam Sethi, Daily Time’s editor, denounced in his newspaper such harassment, the surveillance stopped.

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