IFJ Welcomes Release of Journalists in Pakistan But Remains Concerned Over Continued Press Freedom Violations

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the global organisation of journalists representing over 500,000 journalists worldwide, welcomes the release on 2 June of Afghan journalist Sami Yousafzai and his Pakistani driver Mohammad Salim. However, the IFJ remains deeply concerned over the trend in Pakistan to detain journalists without charge or trial for lengthy periods.


The IFJ has protested to the President of Pakistan, General Pervez Musharraf, in the following letter:


8 June 2004

General Pervez Musharraf

President and Chief Executive of Pakistan

Via Email: CE@pak.gov.pk


The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the global organisation of journalists reresenting over 500,000 journalists worldwide, welcomes the release on 2 June of Afghan journalist Sami Yousafzai and his Pakistani driver Mohammad Salim. However, the IFJ remains deeply concerned over the trend in Pakistan to detain journalists without charge or trial for lengthy periods.


Yousafzai, a stringer for Newsweek, and driver Salim were arrested along with American reporter, Eliza Griswold, on 21 April. Both Yousafzai and Salim were held secretly for six weeks, while Griswold was deported shortly after her arrest. Yousafzai and Salim were released without charge on 2 June.


Considering the recent case of Pakistani freelance journalist Khawar Medhi Rizvi, who was also held in secret detention with government security officers denying knowledge of his whereabouts for a full six weeks (from 16 December 2003 to 26 January 2004), your Government is developing an extremely disturbing pattern of flagrantly disregarding journalists’ human rights, especially through the use of illegal detention.


These unlawful detentions violate Pakistani Constitutional law, specifically that in neither case were the journalists allowed to speak with a lawyer and they were not bought before a magistrate within 24 hours of arrest. Furthermore, in both cases, your Government refused to disclose the whereabouts of the journalists, and flatly denied having them in custody. As both were released by Government authorities, these denials about knowledge of the journalists whereabouts were clearly false.


The IFJ is deeply concerned over attempts by the Pakistani Government to control journalists’ access and coverage of the tribal areas of Pakistan and reminds the Government of Pakistan its duty and responsibility to maintain freedom of the press.


The IFJ calls on the Government of Pakistan to dismiss all charges brought against Rizvi. He was formally charged on 26 January by Pakistani police with sedition, conspiracy and impersonation after being secretly detained by security forces since his initial arrest in Karachi on 16 December 2003.


Finally, the IFJ calls on the Government of Pakistan to immediately cease and desist from disregarding journalists’ human rights, including the most basic right to report freely without fear of persecution.



Yours sincerely

Christopher Warren

President, IFJ



cc Federal Minister Information and Broadcasting

Mr. Sheikh Rashid Ahmed

Via Email: infominister@infopak.gov.pk


Recommended action:

Send appeals:


  • Urging the Government of Pakistan to cease the illegal detention of journalists.

  • Expressing concern against the charges brought against Khawer Mehdi Rizvi.

  • Urging the Government of Pakistan to dismiss all charges against Rizvi.

  • Remind the Government of Pakistan to ensure press freedom and safety of all journalists in Pakistan.


    Appeals:


    General Pervez Musharraf

    President and Chief Executive of Pakistan

    Via Email: CE@pak.gov.pk


    Federal Minister Information and Broadcasting

    Sheikh Rashid Ahmed

    Via Email:infominister@infopak.gov.pk


    For more information please contact IFJ Asia at: ifj-asia@alliance.org.au

    Please copy appeals to the IFJ Asia Office at: ifj-asia@alliance.org.au