HRW flays raid on journalist’s house
ISLAMABAD – The raid by a paramilitary force on a journalist’s house is just the latest attempt by Pakistan’s security agencies to intimidate journalists who criticise the government and military, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a statement issued from New York.
On January 12, soldiers from Pakistan Rangers entered and, without a warrant, searched the house of Salman Masood, a journalist working for the New York Times, said the statement.
The Interior Ministry issued an apology later that day and ordered an inquiry into the raid on Masood. The government asserted that the action was part of a broader search operation in the neighborhood. However, only one other house was searched, raising serious concerns that the raid’s purpose was to harass and intimidate Masood, Human Rights Watch said. Masood has reported extensively about government policies and the role of the military.
“The Pakistan Rangers’ warrantless search of journalist Salman Masood’s home is an outrage, but only the latest security force outrage against journalists in Pakistan,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “A raid on a journalist’s home demands not just a government apology, but also a serious government investigation of the security forces’ intimidation of journalists.” The government should rescind official policies that shield the military from criticism and instead ensure that space for public debate and free speech is protected both from extremist groups and the security establishment, Human Rights Watch said.
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Islamabad represents yet another strike against freedom of expression in Pakistan, underscoring the growing peril faced by media workers in the course of their work, Amnesty International said yesterday.
“This is the latest, depressing addition to a series of brazen attacks in which media workers in Pakistan have been targeted for doing their jobs,” said Champa Patel, Director of Amnesty International’s South Asia Regional Office, in a statement.
“Pakistani media workers can now add being bombed at their desks to a list of occupational hazards that already includes abduction, arbitrary arrest and detention, intimidation, killings and harassment by State and non-state actors,” Champa Patel said. “The purpose of these attacks is to intimidate and censor the Press as a whole, cracking down on freedom of expression.”