RSF asks Paksitan to free French journalists -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

RSF asks Paksitan to free French journalists

PESHAWAR:Paris-based intemational media rights group Reporters Without Frontiers has urged the government to release French reporter Marc Epstein and photograher JeanPaul Guffloteau after they were arrested on Wedneday in Karachi for travelling to Quefta in violation of the “circulation of foreigners rules”.

The media rights group has also voiced concern about the where abouts of Pakistani fteelance journalist Khawar Mchdi Rizvi, who accompamed the French journalists to Que” as their “fixer”.

In a statement sent to the govemment late on Wednesday night, the media group said the “imposition of visa and travel restrictions on foreign reporters obstructed” investigative journalism, and it urged the government to review its visa rules for foreign journalists. The police took the two journalists, who work for the French news weekly L’Express, to the headquarters of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) in Karachi following their arrest. A French diplomat was allowed to visit the detained journalists in Kameld and their lawyer Nafees Siddiqw.

“They had Press visas for Pakistan but, because their investigative reporting required discretion, they had not asked for special permits for their trip to Quettal” said an c-mail message by the media group on Thursday.

They were taken on Friday before a Karachi judge who must decide their case within six days. If convicted, the Frenchmen could face up to three years in prison. Their lawyer plans to request their release on bail today (Saturday). Meanwhile, immigration authorities have announced that they walit to interrogate Mr Rizvi without revealing if he has also been arrested alonp with the Frenchmen.

Mr Siddiqui told Daily Times by phone from Karachi that he had filed a bail application on the journalists’ behalf in the Sessions Court in South Karachi, which referred the case to an Additional Sessions Court judge. The government has asked for all relevant documents in connection with the journalists’ arrests.

On Wednesday, a Karachi court remanded them in custody of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) for eight days on charges of visiting Quetta without valid travel documents. Like the Indian government and the former Taliban regime in Afghanistan, Islamabad has introduced new rules for foreign journalists. FIA Deputy Director Abdul Malik was quoted in the national media as saying, “The French journalists had only visas for Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad and had (allegedly) taken pictures of prohibited areas. If convicted, the two French jour­nalists could face three years imprisonment.”

Source: Dawn
Date:12/19/2003