IFJ Demands Release of Senior Pakistani Journalist After "Illegal Arrest" Linked to Critical Commentaries

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has strongly condemned the illegal detention of Rashid Channa, senior journalist for the Karachi evening newspaper, The Star, by Pakistan authorities.

On Sunday July 24, 2005 at approximately 1:30pm, Channa was arrested by plain-clothes police and intelligence agents from his home in Karachi and was later released at approximately 1am on Monday July 25.

During his detention at Shahra-e-Faisal Police Station Channa was refused permission to eat or drink, was mentally tortured and repeatedly told not to write stories critical of the Sindh Government Chief Minister Arbab Ghulam Rahim.

"Journalists must be guaranteed the right to report and investigate corruption free of intimidation and threat of detention," said IFJ President Christopher Warren.

Senior management of the Dawn Newspapers Group, publishers of The Star, fear Channa's detention may be the first in a series of arrests after their CEO also received threats of arrest from the Sindh Government.

The Star, one of the most widely read English evening newspapers in Pakistan, attracted the attention of the Sindh Government after they published stories which revealed corruption and poor performance within the provincial state ruled by President Pervez Musharraf's Muslim League and the ethnic Muttahida Qaumi Movement.

"The arbitrary arrest of Channa is part of a campaign of intimidation and harassment aimed at forcing the Pakistani press to stop printing the truth and begin to practise self censorship," said Warren.

According to IFJ's affiliate in Pakistan, the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), Channa's arrest "is a clear case of illegal detention and wrongful confinement in which the name of the top slot of the provincial government has appeared," said PFUJ Secretary General Mazhar Abass.

This incident comes after a press crackdown in which police arrested the chief editor and a reporter of the daily Zarb-e-Islam on July 16 and three days later, the editor and two staff members of the weekly Wajood.

According to the PFUJ, the journalists are being arrested on non-bailable offences for allegedly publishing 'hate material' and are being classed as 'C-class," in Central Prison, Karachi and being treated as hardened criminals.

The IFJ, the international organisation that represents more than 500,000 journalists in more than 110 countries, has demanded the Pakistani Government move to protect press freedoms enshrined in Article 19 of the Constitution of Pakistan.

The IFJ represents more than 500,000 journalists in more than 110 countries
For more information please contact Christopher Warren +61 (0) 411 757 668