Government, Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) exchange letters on Frontier Post issue | Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Pakistan Press Foundation

Government, Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) exchange letters on Frontier Post issue

ISLAMABAD- The government has informed the “Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), USA” that the publication of the blasphemous letter in a local daily has been condemned by all Pakistanis, irrespective of their religious beliefs.

It, however assured the committee that no harm would be done to any staffer of The Frontier Post arrested over printing of the letter, unless found guilty.

The secretary told Executive Director Committee to Protect Journalists Ann Cooper that the publication of the blasphemous letter had been condemned not by the government and the chief executive of Pakistan alone, but it has been condemned by all Pakistanis irrespective of their religious beliefs. He said no Muslim could have turned a deaf ear or a blind eye to the publication of such blasphemous material, leave alone the head of government of a country, which was founded to build a progressive, dynamic and democratic Islamic society. Moreover, he said, the condemnation indeed has also come from the president of the All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS), which is the representative body of newspaper publishers of Pakistan and the acting president of the Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors (CPNE), which is the representative organization of editors of Pakistan.

The secretary expressed his surprise that the committee only noted the condemnation by the government and not by the newspaper bodies in Pakistan. He also informed the committee that as demanded by the APNS and the CPNE, the government has constituted a judicial commission to probe into the incident in its entirety and furnish its report for action under the law.

“We would like to reassure every one that no harm will be done to any person included in the complaint unless found guilty through the due process of law,” he added. Arrest of The Frontier Post’s staffers was made on the basis of a formal complaint lodged with the police under the law of the land. The secretary also responded to a number of concerns raised in the letter addressed to the chief executive.

He clarified that security actions taken by the local authorities in Peshawar on the evening of January 29, 2001 were in response to the request made by managing editor of The Frontier Post. The managing editor Frontier Post was in Islamabad that day and had asked for protection and security of newspaper’s premises and to prevent any outbreak of violence.

Regarding allegation of arrest of its sister publication, daily Maidan, Anwar Mahmood said none has been arrested from that newspaper. “A few employees of the daily Maidan were called by the police as part of the investigation process and they were allowed to leave soon thereafter,” he added.

Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has expressed its dismay over the recent arrests of at least dozen employees of an English-language newspaper, The Frontier Post, and its sister publication, the Urdu-language daily Maidan.

In a letter written to Chief Executive General Pervez Musharraf, the New York-based, CPJ, has urged him to release the accused, pending a full investigation into this matter.

The CPJ executive director said in the letter that in light of the prompt, public apology offered by The Frontier Post, the committee believes that punitive action is unwarranted and contributes to a hostile atmosphere for the press. The actions taken by the district officials also highlight the dangers of the blasphemy laws, which have been used to persecute journalists and religious minorities.

The CPJ press release says that the district officials in Peshawar, where both newspapers are published, ordered the arrests and sealed The Frontier Post’s printing press without having conducted any investigation into allegations of blasphemy against the daily.

Although senior management at the newspaper claimed the controversial letter published in The Frontier Post was inserted into the copy as an act of sabotage by disgruntled employees and apology for failing to stop its publication, the district officials responded to complaints from local religious leaders by shutting down the paper and ordering the immediate arrest of seven staff members on charges of blasphemy.

Source: The News