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Pakistan 17 September 2002

Journalist threatened by secret police

Reporters Without Borders protested today against threats by Pakistani secret service agents to physically harm journalist Amir Mateen, correspondent in Islamabad of the English-language daily The News, because of his articles criticising the government.

"Intimidation of journalists by the secret service has increased alarmingly in the past few months," said Reporters Without Border secretary-general Robert Ménard in a letter to information minister Nisar Memon. "They are not just isolated incidents but seem to have become part of a systematic attitude towards the media. This is just another example of the government’s limited view of press freedom."

He called on the minister to see that harassment of Mateen stopped at once. According to information gathered by Reporters Without Borders, the intimidation of the journalist began after he had written several articles about the government’s supposed intention, feared by many opposition parties, of rigging the general election set for 10 October.

Mateen’s phone began to be tapped and he was constantly followed by secret service agents. His colleagues and family were also harassed. He informed information secretary Anwer Mahmood of what was happening and filed a complaint against persons unknown at an Islamabad police station, but no investigation was made.

Since then, things have got worse and Mateen says he was openly threatened by secret services agents who warned him that "the earlier treatment has not taught [him] any lesson" and that "if [he] did not stop writing against the government, [he] could be physically harmed." They told him that in view of his heart problems, "[he] will not be able to bear a day’s torture."

A few days ago, information minister Memon said in New York that he would personally look into Mateen’s case, but the journalist has not been contacted by any government official.

Other journalists from The News, notably Rauf Klasra, were threatened by the secret service in May. In July, Muzaffar Ejaz, managing editor of the daily Jasarat, was also harassed.

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