IFJ Condemns Pakistan Expulsion of Reporters, Warns Action “Will Only Encourage Instability”

The International Federation of Journalists has strongly condemned the expulsion of three journalists working for a British daily newspaper in Pakistan accusing the government of President Pervez Musharraf of “intolerance and destroying international confidence in promises of a quick return to the rule of law and democracy.”

The government is expelling Daily Telegraph journalists Isambard Wilkinson, Colin Freeman and Damien McElroy under emergency regulations for using "foul and abusive language against Pakistan and the Pakistani leadership", according to State-run Pakistan Television. The action follows a newspaper editorial yesterday criticising the declaration of emergency rule. The Telegraph news team have been given 72 hours to quit the country said the Deputy Information Minister Tariq Azim Khan. Two work for the Daily Telegraph and one for the Sunday Telegraph.

The IFJ says this action only adds to the sense of political crisis in the country. “Banning international media and gagging local journalists will not solve problems,” said Aidan White IFJ General Secretary. “It smacks of intolerance, will only encourage further instability and destroys international confidence in government promises of a quick return to the rule of law and democracy.”

Since the declaration of emergency rule a week ago journalists in Pakistan, including the IFJ affiliate the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), have condemned the introduction of official censorship, the banning of international broadcasters, and the closure of independent media outlets.

The IFJ and the PFUJ are calling for a global day of action in protest at the curbs on press freedom and the media on November 15th.

Yesterday journalists across Pakistan held further protests after the government refused to withdraw two anti-media ordinances issued last weekend. Many media owners have also condemned the Government for allowing four small broadcasters to reinstate their domestic transmissions in exchange for agreeing to comply with the ordinances.

The government rules prohibit media from broadcasting or publishing statements ridiculing the President or top government officials and the military. Media are banned from carrying statements from Islamist militants or their pictures. Under the curbs, an offender can be sentenced to up to three years in jail or fined up to 10 million rupees ($167,000).

International news channels, including the BBC and CNN, have been off the air. It was reported that police even stopped sales of satellite dishes in at least two cities as Pakistanis sought other ways to access news. Some private news and entertainment channels that have had their screens blacked out on cable are streaming programmes on the Internet.

More Information: 0032 478258669. See Pakistan Crisis Updates on www.ifj.org

The IFJ is the World’s largest journalists’ organisation with more than 600,000 members in 117 countries.