Police torture of journalists ‘exposes government’
LAHORE- Political parties and journalists associations including the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) and the Punjab Union of Journalists (PUJ) have condemned the baton-charge of journalists during president’s public meeting in Faisalabad earlier in the day.
Several journalists were injured during the baton-charge as they protested and staged a boycott when the Punjab governor condemned them for “misreporting facts of president’s referendum meetings” and made the participants to boo the newsmen.
Punjab Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) President Qasim Zia and Information Secretary Naveed Chaudhry took exception to the incident and said on the one hand the government was claiming to have guaranteed full freedom to the press and on the other it was putting a gag on it. The incident showed that the government was trying to impose the referendum on the people.
They said the PPP had already stated that the Punjab government was showing its might. It must realize that it could not achieve its desired results through actions like the baton-charge of journalists, they said.
Alliance for Restoration of Democracy (ARD) Central Information Secretary Munir Ahmad Khan condemned the baton-charge and said it had exposed the referendum plans. It had also established that the government did not want to tolerate independent assessment of the referendum by political parties and even by journalists.
He said the event must have opened the eyes of the entire world especially the US, making them realize what sort of democracy they wanted in Pakistan.
Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz Group (PML-N’s) Khwaja Saad Rafiq said the baton-charge had exposed the real face of the government. It was an attack on the freedom of the press. He said the present rulers were expert in creating enemies and the event in Faisalabad would go against them.
PML-N and ARD vice-president Begum Tehmina Daultana said the journalists were tortured because the government could not tolerate the truth. “We knew that after politicians, journalists would be maltreated,” she said.
She regretted the incident, termed it shameful and an attack on the fourth pillar of the state. As to how those who could not tolerate the truth could introduce democracy in the country, she said.
The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) has condemned incident and said it had shocked the entire journalist community.
PFUJ president I.H.Raashed said in a statement that unwarranted and brutal police action against the working journalists who had gone to cover the public meeting had sent a wave of resentment among the community.
He criticized the remarks of the Punjab governor against the journalists and the national press and his instigation of the people to raise slogans against the national press for its objective reporting of the public meeting addressed by President Musharraf at Lahore on Tuesday last.
He said that as the pressmen attending the Faisalabad meeting protested against the governor’s remarks and his instigation of the crowd and left the meeting place, the police pounced upon them causing injuries to several of them. It was not the first occasion, he said, when the journalists had been maltreated, they had not been allowed to enter the public meeting of the president at Quetta. He said that these incidents had exposed the government’s claim of allowing freedom of the press.
The PFUJ president urged President Musharraf to intervene. He also asked the Punjab governor to withdraw his remarks against the national press. He said that an emergency meeting of all journalists unions of the country would be held soon to discuss the situation arising out of the Faisalabad incident and to chalk out the further course of action.
PUJ President Usman bin Ahmad also condemned the incident and said the torture of journalists would cost dearly to the government, which had already failed to secure their rights.
He said the PUJ fully supported the journalists injured during the baton-charge, urging the government to forthwith suspend the Faisalabad Senior Superintendent Police (SSP) and other police officials responsible for the incident.
Mr Ahmad asked the Punjab governor to tender apology for his words against the journalists. The baton-charge had fully exposed the world as to which extent the press in Pakistan was free and how the government was protecting the rights of the journalists.
The PUJ (Dastoor) also condemned the torture of journalists in Faisalabad and demanded an immediate inquiry by a judge of the Lahore High Court (LHC) into the incident.
In a statement, PUJ President Jalilur Rehman and Secretary-General Aslam Zubair said the lambasting of newspapers for reporting the number of the audience of the president’s public meeting less than the government claims was shocking.
The union urged the PFUJ, the APNS, the Council of Pakistan Newspapers Society (CPNE) and the Amnesty International and other international bodies of print and electronic media to take immediate note of the event.
The governing body of the Lahore Press Club which met under acting president Ziaullah Niazi expressed concern over the serious condition of two of the injured journalists. It maintained that the journalists could not be prevented from writing the truth through such actions. The event had established that the press was not free in Pakistan, it maintained, demanding stern action against the police officials responsible for the torture. It also asked the Punjab government to seek excuse from the journalists otherwise they would launch countrywide protests. A protest demonstration would be held in front of the club at 5pm on Monday, it was announced.