RWB condemns restrictions on journalists in Abbottabad -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

RWB condemns restrictions on journalists in Abbottabad

* Authorities have stepped up restrictions for media after May 2 operation, foreign journalists now need special permits

PESHAWAR: Reporters Without Borders (RWB) condemned on Monday the continuous curbs on the movement of journalists in Abbottabad where al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was killed by US special forces on May 2.

The authorities have stepped up restrictions on access to Abbottabad for the media after the operation.

Foreign journalists now need a special permit to visit the town. “A range of pretexts are used to obstruct the work of local journalists, who ought to be able to move around freely,” the Paris-based organisation said in a press statement.

“It is deplorable that an entire town has been placed under what is in effect a state of emergency and the movement of journalists are being restricted for the sake of protecting the confidentiality of the official investigation into Osama’s death,” RWB said.

“We urge the authorities to guarantee the right of journalists to do their work, as this is essential for a free press. While certain restrictions on access may be necessary, a lack of transparency will cast doubt on the credibility of the investigation’s findings, when they are released. These bans are a form of censorship,” the watchdog said.

In one of the latest incidents, Muhammad Ihsan Khan, a journalist working for a US-based radio station, was physically assaulted by unidentified men near the wall of the compound where Bin Laden had been living. Khan had come to cover a visit by the judicial commission that the government had appointed to investigate the intervention of the US special forces.

Two French journalists, Noémie Karine Géraldine LeHouelleur and Olivier Joulie, were arrested near the bin Laden compound on September 7 and were interrogated at the Mirpur Police Station for six hours by police and members of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) for “travelling without valid documents”. Joulie did not have the required special permit.

The journalists, who said they were just taking photos for a report on the popularity of the French language in Abbottabad, were not released until they had signed a written apology. The photos they had taken were deleted from their cameras.

A journalist with China Television, identified only as Chan, and two Pakistani journalists, Saad Gul and Muhammad Bilal, were arrested on September 8, while approaching the bin Laden compound. The two local journalists were taken to the Nawan Sher Police Station while Chan, who did not have a permit, was asked to leave the town.
Source: Daily Times