Over two dozen journalists injured in Islamabad in police baton charge.
Over two dozens journalists were injured on September 29, 2007, when police resorted to teargas and baton-charge on them outside the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) in an effort to clear the way for state dignitaries. The condition of five journalists is stated to be in serious condition.
The journalists were covering the scrutiny of nomination papers of the Pakistan’s presidential candidates, and had staged a sit-in outside the ECP building to protest the government’s decision barring journalists working for independent media outlets from covering the process of scrutiny of nomination papers. Scores of lawyers protesting the candidature of President General Pervez Musharraf in the forthcoming elections were also injured in the incident.
The security forces damaged cameras and mobile phones of the reporters and cut cables of mobile TV vans covering the incident for television channels. The police also used abusive language against the journalists.
Spokespersons of leading television channels Geo, Aaj and ARYONE said that the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) had blocked transmissions for several hours. Two days earlier PEMRA had warned television channels that that some of the interviewers on TV programmes were behaving like judges and indulging in incitement.
The problem started when personnel of the Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) and the Punjab Police suddenly started beating the protesting journalists to clear the way for motorcade of Punjab Chief Minister Choudhry Pervaiz Elahi when he was coming out of the ECP after completion of the scrutiny process.
The Minister of State for Information Tariq Azeem was also roughed up when he came out of an ambulance to listen to the grievances of the protesting journalists.
Pakistan’s presidential elections scheduled for October 6, 2007 are generating a great deal of passion on the issue of whether President General Pervez Musharraf can be a candidate while still holding the charge of Chief of Army Staff. The Supreme Court of Pakistan last week dismissed petitions by lawyers and opposition parties seeking to bar Musharraf from standing in the elections
Journalists throughout Pakistan observed a “Black Day” on September 30 by organizing protest demonstrations and took out rallies condemning the brutality of the law enforcing agencies and demanding the government to ensure freedom of expression and press in the country. The call for the “Black Day” was given by the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ).
The Supreme Court of Pakistan took Suo Moto notice of the attack on journalists and lawyers and ordered the suspension of the head of police in the city.
Source: Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)