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Pakistan 2 March 2004

Reporters Without Borders fears new upsurge of violence against press after bloody attack against Shiite in Quetta

Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières) is extremely concerned about the risk of violence spilling over against the press after a bomb and gunfire attack against Shiites faithful in south-western Quetta that left around 44 dead.

The international press freedom organisation called on the authorities to take all necessary steps to protect the threatened media and also urged the Pakistani press to resist all incitement to hatred among the religious communities.

Within two days, Shiite demonstrators have attacked the press club in Karachi and torched the offices of the daily Jang in Quetta. The demonstrators accused the privately-owned Geo TV which is part of the Jang, press group of having broadcast "insulting remarks" on 24 February.

The bomb and machine-gun attack against a procession to mark the Shia holy day of Ashura on 2 March left at least 44 dead. On the fringes of the scene of the attack, demonstrators torched cars and businesses, including the offices of the national daily Jang in Quetta. The authorities imposed a ceasefire in a bid to restore order.

A group of Shiite demonstrators ransacked a part of the press club in southern Karachi on 29 February. Several hundred people came to protest against Geo TV. This followed a broadcast at the end of February during which members of the Sunni religious community reportedly made insulting remarks towards the Shia community.

Some 20 demonstrators scaled the walls and broke windows at the press club. They also beat a watchman, who tried to stop them. He needed hospital treatment but his injuries were not life-threatening. The journalists inside the building took refuge in a room on the first floor while the demonstrators ransacked the premises. The demonstrators then made their way to the Geo TV studios but police blocked their way.

President of the Karachi Journalists’ Union, Mazhar Abbas, told Reporters Without Borders that the press had been deliberately targeted.




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