PFUJ alleges assault on press freedom
KARACHI, May 3, 2005: The press in Pakistan was subjected to violence, pressure and harassment in 2004-5 and journalists were subjected to physical torture despite ‘a faÃ§ade of freedom of the press’. This was stated by the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) in its annual report issued on the eve of the International Press Freedom Day being observed throughout the world on May 3.
According to the report, pressure and harassment were main weapons used by the government and its agencies to control the press while journalists and press photographers were subjected to violence at the hands of security agencies, pressure groups and political and religious organizations in 2004-5.
Violence against the press in Lahore, Karachi and Quetta in April 2005 alone exposed the government’s claims of freedom of the press, the report said.
In Lahore and Karachi, the report said, police and administration not only obstructed the coverage of arrival of People’s Party Parliamentarians leader Asif Ali Sardar but also resorted to baton charge, detained media people, removed films from cameras of photographers and manhandled them.
“In Quetta, some armed people entered the office of daily Mashriq, badly beat up its Chief Editor Kaman Mutes and threatened the staff of dire consequences.” The report said that the situation was worst for journalists covering events in South Waziristan, where two media personnel were killed, Sui and Gilgit. Journalists working in remote areas of the country remained under constant pressure, the report said.
The PFUJ rejected the government’s claim of press freedom as a mere eyewash in the presence of existing black laws which had often been used to curb the freedom of the press.
The PFUJ demanded that India and Pakistan should lift ban on each others’ news channels and allow sale of newspapers and magazines from across the border.