HRCP condemns attack
LAHORE- The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has condemned the baton charge by police of journalists who boycotted the public meeting of President Gen Pervez Musharraf in Faisalabad in which injuries were suffered by several of them.
In a press release issued here by HRCP chairman Afrasiab Khattak and secretary-general Hina Jillani, it was stated that the incident was an indication of increasingly dangerous interference with the media’s role.
It said: “Even more ominous is the fact that remarks by the Punjab governor, who called on the public to ‘punish’ journalists for their reporting of the previous rally in Lahore, appeared to have instigated the police action. The journalists had walked out of the meeting in protest against the governor’s comments, accusing them of misreporting facts and urging the crowd to raise slogans against them.
“This is not the first occasion when newsmen have come under attack for attempting to objectively report public events. In the past, they have been prevented from covering meetings held by political opponents of the regime and at Quetta recently, newsmen were kept away from the rally addressed by the president, apparently because the local administration feared they would not present a strictly complimentary picture of the occasion,” the commission stated.
The commission added that incidents such as the one that took place in Faisalabad demonstrated that official claims of complete freedom of expression were deceptive. Indeed, it would appear that the administration was growing increasingly aggressive in its attempt to muzzle the press.
JAMAAT-I-ISLAMI: Deputy secretary-general Farid Piracha and information secretary Amirul Azim termed the baton charge an assault on the freedom of the press.
“Attendance of 30,000 people will not become 300,000 by baton-charging journalists. The government must learn a lesson from its falling popularity and abandon the idea of referendum. Its claim of freedom of press stands exposed and give cue to its future plans of handling those trying to objectively report its rallies. The governor’s raising of slogans bespeaks of official plans handling the press.”
SAP: The baton-charge on the instigation of Punjab governor has generated fears that the future of democracy and the press is in danger.
The South Asia Partnership (SAP), in a press statement, said: “The incident has jolted the freedom of press and exposed government’s claim of allowing freedom to the press.