Over 20 journalists injured
ISLAMABAD, Sept 29: Over two dozens journalists covering the events on the day of scrutiny of nomination papers of the presidential candidates were injured when the personnel of law enforcement agencies resorted to teargas and baton-charge on them outside the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) in an effort to clear the way for movements of VVIPs.
In an unprecedented move, the security forces also cut cables of mobile TV vans and damaged cameras and mobile phones of the reporters.
It all started when the security personnel, belonging to the Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) and the Punjab Police, all of a sudden started beating up a group of protesting journalists to clear the way for motorcade of Punjab Chief Minister Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi when he was coming out of the ECP after completion of the scrutiny process.
The journalists were staging a sit-in outside the ECP building to protest the government’s decision of stopping them from covering the nomination papers’ scrutiny, blocking news channels’ transmission in several parts of the country and few minor incidents of police misbehaviour with them earlier in the day.
Most of the injured reporters were shifted to Federal Government Services Hospital (FGSH) where some of them were admitted due to serious nature of their injuries.
One of the injured journalists told Dawn that the harsh police action showed that they had received special instructions from the authorities concerned to target the reporters. He said the police also used abusive language against the journalists.
Minister of State for Information Tariq Azeem was also roughed up by a mob posing as journalists when he came out of an ambulance to listen to the grievances of the protesting journalists.
Eye-witnesses said the minister was going inside the ECP building in an ambulance when he was identified by one of the protesters. They alleged that the government ministers and some ruling coalition MNAs kept on using ambulances for travelling from and to the ECP to avoid the wrath of the protesting lawyers and political workers.
On the other hand, the minister told DawnNews TV that he was actually taking an injured person to a hospital in the ambulance and had come there only to hear the complaints of the reporters.
The angry journalists later announced to boycott the Iftar dinner hosted by the prime minister for them in the evening forcing the authorities to postpone the event.
Meanwhile, Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) gave a call to observe black day on Sunday across the country against the police action outside the ECP.
The protest call was given by PFUJ Secretary-General Mazhar Abbas and Rawalpindi-Islamabad Union of Journalists (RIUJ) president Afzal Butt while addressing the protesting journalists on the Constitution Avenue. They also announced to hold a protest march from the camp office of Rawalpindi-Islamabad Press Club to the Parliament House.
Talking to Dawn, Mazhar Abbas condemned violence against journalists. He termed Friday’s police action against journalists as ‘brutal’ and said it had exposed the government’s claim regarding press freedom in the country. He said violence against journalists was not a new thing for them, adding that they would not compromise on their right of access to free information.
TAXILA: The journalist community in Taxila, Wah Cantonment and Hassanabdal has condemned brutal use of power against mediapersons and lawyers outside the Election Commission of Pakistan building on Saturday.
In their separate meetings they expressed their concern over the attack of law enforcement agencies on two important pillars of the state and said this act had exposed the government’s stance on ‘free media’ in the country.
They demanded impartial judicial inquiry into the incident and action against those responsible.
MURREE: Journalists in Murree held a demonstration on The Mall against maltreatment of their colleagues outside the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) building in Islamabad.
Murree Union of Journalists President Imtiazul Haq and Murree Press Club President Shafqat Abbasi led the demonstration.
The journalists condemned the use of force against their colleagues who were performing their professional duties outside the ECP.
Addressing the demonstrators, the presidents of the union and press club vowed to continue their protest for the freedom of media.
They fully supported the PFUJ’s decision to observe ‘Black Day’ on Sunday. They said protest rallies would be brought out on the occasion.