The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the global organisation of journalists representing over 500,000 journalists worldwide, has today backed its affiliate in Pakistan, the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), in their condemnation of the arrest of two journalists in Lahore, Pakistan on Monday, November 8.
Journalist and well-known Urdu poet Farhat Abbas Shah and Afaq Shah, a presenter on FM Radio 103 Lahore, were arrested by police in the Pakistani province of Punjab for broadcasting a disputed news story about the Punjab Institute of Cardiology.
According to the police first information report (FIR), police accused the journalists of violating Section 16 of the MPO (Maintenance of Public Order) and Section 144, which forbids the gathering of more than five people. Police are accusing the journalists of disrupting peace and public order.
According to the FIR, the journalists broadcast stories on FM Radio 103 Lahore accusing government hospitals and doctors of failing the Pakistani people.
According to Awais Bajwa, station manager at FM Radio 103 Lahore, the police arrested the program manager at the radio station and allegedly roughed him up. Farhat Abbas Shah was subsequently arrested when he went to the police station to assist the program manager. Eyewitness testimony suggests that both journalists suffered torture and a beating by police.
“It appears that our colleagues are being victimised by local authorities who are trying to stifle free and independent voices in the media,” said IFJ President Christopher Warren today.
“Such an attack on fundamental liberties must not be allowed to stand,” said Warren.
The IFJ is calling for the Punjab authorities to release the journalists and immediately drop all charges.