SAFMA condemns arrest of its founding Secy Gen in Pakistan

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New Delhi, Nov 7 (UNI) The South Asian Free Media Association (SAFMA) today expressed shocked over the ''sudden and illegal detention'' of its founding Secretary General Imtiaz Alam in Lahore, on Monday and expressed concern over the ''general adverse conditions'' for the mass media in Pakistan after the imposition of emergency.

In a joint statement, the Presidents of the national chapters of SAFMA said ''We, the Presidents of all national SAFMA Chapters in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, condemn the detention of Mr Alam for over 36 hours, without furnishing any charges and keeping him incommunicado without giving access to his legal attorney and his family.'' They also urged the Pakistan Government to refrain from attempting to muzzle the media and thereby deprive the citizens of their due right to information and facility of expression. ''We call on the Government of Pakistan to respect international standards of freedom of expression and information and media rights and, to desist from actions that suppress the functioning of media enterprises and channels,'' they said.

The heads of the SAFMA units in other South Asian countries said the current enforcement of Emergency rule in Pakistan was resulting in the widespread violation of human rights through the mass arrests of lawyers, rights activists and political activists, and journalists and other professionals. Suppression of political activity and the abuse of human rights and democratic norms would not help attain the goal of eliminating terrorism.

The statement said the police kidnapped Mr Alam during the morning hours on November 5 and kept him shifting from one police station to another.

Before his arrest, SAFMA Secretary General Imtiaz Alam had condemned the proclamation of Emergency, suspension of constitution, sacking of the superior judiciary, issuance of the black media laws to muzzle both print and electronic media and had called for a joint struggle for the restoration of media freedom and fundamental rights in Pakistan.

On his release from illegal detention, the SAFMA Secretary General vowed to continue the struggle for a free press in Pakistan and thanked the media community and other friends who had put up tireless efforts to get his release.

The SAFMA statement, issued by the Presidents of its national chapters, was signed by Mr Lakshman Gunasekara, Sri Lanka, Mr Halim Fidai, Afghanistan, Mr Reazuddin Ahmed, Bangladesh, Mr Gopilal Acharya, Bhutan, Mr K K Katyal, India, Mr Ameenath Najeeb, Maldives, Mr Gopal Thapaliya, Nepal, and Ms Nusrat Javeed, Pakistan.

UNI

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