IFJ Protests the Use of Laws to Curb Press Freedom in Pakistan

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today termed the registering of cases against reporters as an attempt to curb press freedom.

"The use of laws to intimidate journalists and restrict their right to report is nothing less than an assault on press freedom," said IFJ President Christopher Warren.

According to information received by the IFJ, cases against two reporters Afzal Nadeem of evening newspaper Awam and Asad Ibne Hasan of Daily News, were registered in Karachi on May 28 for alleged "anti-state" activities.

Their 'crime' was a minor mistake while reporting the exact timing of a police encounter with criminals. The section under which cases have been registered carries a maximum punishment of up to seven years in one case and three years in the other.

According to the reported story, the Home Minister Rauf Siddiqui said that there had been an encounter at 3pm in which one abducted person was rescued and four kidnappers killed. The police chief however said that the encounter took place at 4 pm. This discrepancy indicated that the kidnappers might have been killed in an extra-judicial manner, or a 'fake encounter', which is very common in Pakistan particularly in Karachi.

Although the Awam issued a clarification about the timing on the very next day, the cases were not withdrawn.

This is one of a series of cases being filed against reporters. A few months ago, the Sindh government had registered a case under the Official Secrets Act (OSA) against Afzal Nadeem of Awam. Despite assurances by the Sindh Governor Dr Ishratul Ibad to the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), the case has still not been dropped. The maximum punishment under the OSA could be up to 14-years imprisonment.

The IFJ joins the PFUJ Executive Council in condemning the registration of these cases, terming it an attempt to suppress the freedom of expression through pressure tactics.

The IFJ represents more than 500,000 journalists in more than 100 countries

For more information please contact Christopher Warren +61 (0) 411 757 668