CPJ condemns attacks on Pak scribes

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New York, Sep 12: The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has sent a letter to Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf to protest against the ''brutal'' attacks on Pakistani journalists by security personnel, during the arrival of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif in Islamabad.

''According to reporters, the violence during the arrival of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif in Islamabad on Monday, went far beyond the pushing and shoving that can occur at such breaking news events,'' said the letter, whose copies were made available here yesterday. While journalists complained of excessive manhandling by the authorities, CPJ has been told of at least two incidents in which security personnel at the Islamabad airport repeatedly struck and kicked television reporters.

Fakhar-ur-Rehman, the defense correspondent for Aaj TV, who also works for the US television network NBC and Turkish National TV, was assaulted without warning, in the public arrival area of the airport by three plain-clothesmen as airport security personnel stood by and watched. Rehman said, according to the letter, men attacked him as he was using his cellphone to do an interview for his TV station.

Rehman was dragged from the public area to a corridor and then taken to a small room where ''they continued to hit me with all their might,'' the letter quoted him as saying. He was eventually hospitalised the following day and when discharged, stayed at home, largely confined to his bed.

In a separate incident almost at the same time, cameraman Talat Farooq was assaulted by security personnel in the parking lot of the airport while he was videotaping for Dawn TV. According to Huma Ali, President of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists, Farooq was pummeled repeatedly until he was no longer able to work. The assault on him came as part of widespread scuffle as security guards drove journalists from the airport building, the letter said.

Several journalists ''those who had arrived on the plane with former Prime Minister Sharif from London, and Islamabad-based journalists who had managed to skirt the five km security cordon around much of the airport'' told CPJ that the actions of the security guards were much more aggressive than usual.

''Outright attacks like these by the government"s security apparatus are unacceptable,'' CPJ said in the letter, signed by Joel Simon, Executive Director of the New York-based body. ''The government must act immediately to investigate how and why its security forces were allowed to lose control, and then bring those responsible to justice.'' Among others, copies of the letter were sent to Minister for Information and Broadcasting Mohammad Ali Durrani and US Ambassador to Pakistan Anne W Patterson.

CPJ is a nonprofit body working for safeguarding the freedom of news media around the world.


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