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Pakistan bans two publications for "anti-state feelings" as attacks on journalists continue

Pakistan bans two publications for "anti-state feelings" as attacks on journalists continue
Pakistani soldiers patrol in Miranshah in February 2007. Photo: Agence France-Presse (AFP) / Aamir Qureshi

Two publications in Pakistan's Sindh province, the daily Islam and the weekly Zarb-e-Momin, have been banned for the alleged offence of spreading "anti-state feelings". Although the order was made by the Sindh provincial government under an article of the Criminal Procedure Code dealing with forfeiture for spreading "anti-state feeling", the action appears to have been initiated by the Federal Government, according to the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ).

The last time the Sindh provincial government acted against the Islam, the newspaper secured a reversal of the ban from the courts, PFUJ said. "According to PFUJ, the banning of these two publications is the first explicitly anti-media action taken since the restoration of an elected federal government in Pakistan earlier this year," the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) Asia-Pacific said.

"IFJ endorses PFUJ's stand that action under the relevant section of the law, if at all required, should be initiated through the judicial process rather than through summary administrative action. Summary closures endanger livelihoods and set a poor example for all levels of government," it said.

IFJ also expressed concern about escalating dangers for journalists as a result of the growing strife in North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).

Among many incidents in several weeks of strife for the media in Pakistan, two journalists suffered serious injuries when they were shot in Peshawar, in NWFP, as they escaped an attempted abduction on November 14.

Japanese news correspondent Motoki Yotsukura, the Pakistan bureau chief of Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun, and her Afghan colleague and facilitator, Sami Yusufzai, a correspondent for Newsweek, were reportedly returning from interviewing insurgents in the Khyber region bordering Afghanistan when a car of armed men tried to intercept them.

Although the journalists' driver evaded the attackers, the men shot randomly at the car. Yusufzai was reportedly shot in the chest, hand and arm, and has been admitted to hospital in Peshawar. Yotsukura was shot in the right leg and was being taken to Islamabad for treatment, according to news reports.

PFUJ, an IFJ affiliate, expressed alarm at the growing number of shooting and abduction incidents targeting journalists in recent weeks. On November 3, Abdul Razzak Johra, a reporter for Royal TV, was murdered in Punjab province, seemingly in connection to his reporting on drug-related crimes. Qari Mohammad Shoaib, a reporter for the Azadi and Khabar Kar newspapers, was shot dead by security forces in Mingora in the north-western Swat valley on November 8.

PFUJ said concerns are also held for the safety of Khadija Abdul Qahar, a Canadian formerly known as Beverly Giesbrecht, who publishes a web-based magazine, http://www.jihadunspun.com . PFUJ said she was reportedly abducted along with her translator and guide, both Pakistani nationals, on November 11. The group was reported to have been travelling to the town of Miramshah in the North Waziristan area in FATA, when they were stopped and taken to an unknown site by a group of armed men.

"IFJ calls on all sides in Pakistan's conflicts to respect the right of journalists to move safely through conflict areas," IFJ Asia-Pacific said. "IFJ also endorses the PFUJ appeal to news organisations to plan adequately for all contingencies involving possible hazards to staffers and freelancers engaged in reporting in dangerous locations."

Date posted: November 18, 2008 Last modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 331