Baton-charge on journalists widely condemned
ISLAMABAD- Various political parties and the representative bodies of journalists and newspaper workers condemned baton-charge of several news reporters covering the referendum rally of General Pervez Musharraf in Faisalabad.
In a joint statement, the All Pakistan Newspapers Employees Confederation (APNEC) chairman, Abdul Hameed Chapra; Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) president, I.H. Rashid, Rawalpindi-Islamabad Union of Journalist president Pervez Shaukat and other leaders deplored the reported remarks passed by the Punjab governor against the media persons.
“President Musharraf has been saying since long that media is totally free but the latest incident suggest as if the governor has no agreement with his boss on the issue.”
They recalled that the journalist community had rendered numerable sacrifices so as to attain the present state of freedom.
“The journalists,” they warned, “would not surrender to such incidents of state terrorism and would never compromise on their principles of morality, rule of law, justice and respect for the internationally-recognised standards of human rights.
They demanded of the government to issue an apology on this unfortunate incident to avert a countrywide protest campaign against the incident and the unfair remarks of the governor.
PML (N): Mian Ejaz Shafi, the senior vice president of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz Group (PML-N), said the incident reflected the regime’s plan to subjugate the press also through the use of brutal force.
Threats hurled at the media for writing the truth was a pointer to what could be expected in the future from the military regime.
Baton charge on mediamen was an open threat to the freedom of the press to prevent it from exposing the regime’s shortcomings, he added.
He was of the view that the rulers had gone bonkers over the indifferent response of the general public, and alleged they were forcibly bringing people to Gen Musharraf’s gatherings from hospitals, schools and government offices.
He claimed that all those political parties, which enjoyed the people’s support, were opposed to the referendum, saying only those who had official backing but no popular support and following were in the forefront of “Gen Musharraf’s bid for absolute power for himself and his constituency – the military.”
PPP: The spokesman for the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), Munawwar Suhrawardy, in a statement, deplored the remarks of Gen Khalid Maqbool (retd), the governor of Punjab.
The PPP claimed that the incident had also exposed Gen Musharraf’s plan to rule the country with an iron hand, and the “unconstitutional” resort to referendum for seeking legitimacy was an exercise in that direction.
The party claimed that the Punjab governor, as the chief of the Ehtesab Bureau, had also whipped up a campaign to malign politicians and allegedly conspired against them. It was of the view that such an act was damaging the image of Pakistan and of its armed forces.
The party urged the Supreme Court and the Chief Election Commissioner to take notice of the incidents of high-handedness.
Acting secretary-general of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), Mian Raza Rabbani, said the baton-charge on journalists in Faisalabad was unwarranted, uncalled for and a brazen show of force to brow beat and intimidate the Press in the country.
In a separate statement, he said the journalists were exercising their democratic right to boycott the speech of the Punjab governor who condemned the national Press for what he said was misreporting of the referendum rallies.
The PPP leader demanded of the regime to seek unconditional apology from the journalists. He also sympathized with the injured journalists and assured them that the PPP would stand by them in their struggle for human rights and civil liberties.
Mr Rabbani said the Faisalabad baton-charge after the warning hurled by the governor was intended to warn the free media that it must toe the line of the regime or face the consequences.
He said the shameful incident showed that the Press was not free in Pakistan and its freedom was withheld when it exposed the regime and its fraud.
Later, the Pakistan Tehrik Insaf (PTI) has also condemned the baton-charge on journalists. Considering the seriousness of the issue, the PTI has demanded a judicial inquiry into the incident.
In a statement, the PTI information secretary, Akbar S. Babar, said the incident had raised alarm bells across the country. “An attack on journalists is in fact an attack on the freedom of the press.”
Later, in a separate statement, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz Group (PML-N) information secretary Siddiqul Farooq has termed brutal baton-charge on journalists an example of state terrorism aimed at terrorising the national press to follow diktat of hiding the true facts from the public.
He said the baton-charge on journalists was a naked threat to the national media to get into line or face government’s wrath. He pointed out that the Press showed only what it saw and the military rulers had never been morally courageous enough to see their real face in the mirror. He alleged that General Musharraf wanted to win referendum by terrorizing the people and the national press.
President, Divisional Union of Journalists, Rawalpindi condemned the baton-charge. “President General Musharraf should order strict action against the police officials responsible for the incident. He said the governor should have cared for decorum of the President’s public meeting.