Pakistan - At least 160 journalists arrested during press freedom rallies in Sindh province

    MONTREAL, Nov. 20 /CNW Telbec/ - Reporters Without Borders today called
for the immediate release of at least 160 journalists arrested by police in
Karachi and Hyderabad as they demonstrated peacefully for press freedom.
    The worldwide press freedom organisation also condemned police brutality
against the demonstrators in Karachi, where the vast majority of the arrests
were made. Around 20 were arrested in Hyderabad.
    Scores of police wielding batons charged peaceful demonstrators who had
first gathered in front of the Karachi press club. They attacked as the
demonstrators tried to move close to the residence of the provincial governor,
injuring at least five journalists, one of whom suffered head injuries.
    Around 20 journalists, including Shamim-ur-Rehman, president of the
Karachi journalists' union, and Sabih Uddin Ghousi, president of the Karachi
press club, were arrested in the street. At least 140 demonstrators then took
refuge in the press club, which was quickly surrounded by the security forces.
The protestors were arrested as they left the building.
    Agence France-Presse quoted a police officer as saying that he had
received orders to use force against the journalists who were gathering near
the governor's residence. The demonstrators were chanting slogans against the
restrictions on press freedom imposed by President Pervez Musharraf. One
journalist in Karachi who attended the rally confirmed to Reporters Without
Borders that it had been a peaceful protest.
    "While the government boasts of having freed thousands of political
activists and lawyers arrested since 3 November, police in Karachi are
brutally arresting more than 150 journalists," the organisation said.
    The state of emergency cannot be used to justify gratuitous violence
which causes serious harm to Pakistan's international image. President Pervez
Musharraf should give clear orders for the crackdown against journalists to
stop immediately," it added.
    The arrests came as Reporters Without Borders was taking part, among
other journalists organisations, in an international on-the-spot study of the
situation in the country.
    Elsewhere, Shoaib Bhutta, editor of the Urdu-language Daily Tulou, was
arrested at his office in Islamabad on 17 November by a group of eight people,
apparently members of the security services. The journalist was released
two days later, but the same day uniformed police seized the paper's
computers. The equipment has not been returned. Bhutta said his guards had
told him he had been detained on the orders of the head of the Punjab
provincial government and the chief of police. During questioning, he was
asked why he criticised the authorities. He was not allowed to sleep during
the time he was held and was kept chained up.

For further information:

For further information: Emily Jacquard, secretary general, Reporters
Without Borders Canada, (514) 521-4111, Cell: (514) 258-4208, Fax: (514)

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