IFJ condemns assault on newspapers in Sindh, Pakistan

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is deeply concerned about the concerted attacks on newspaper offices in Pakistan.

IFJ president Christopher Warren joined IFJ affiliate Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), as well as the Karachi Union of Journalists (KUJ), Sindhi Media Forum (SMF) and the Karachi Press Club (KPC), in strongly condemning the attack on newspaper offices and burning of newspapers in Karachi and other parts of Sindh.

On December 23, 2005, a group of armed men threw a petrol bomb into the offices of the Sukkur edition of the Sindhi-language daily newspaper Khabroon, setting the reception area on fire. The attackers reportedly hurled threats at the newspaper staff and fired shots in the air. The assailants are believed to be Sindhi nationalists.

The attack is the next incident in the growing unrest over the Kalabagh Dam issue. Prior to the attack, the entire staff of Khabroon had resigned over what they termed the “misuse” of public money by the Federal Ministry of Information who had issued advertisements in favour of the controversial Kalabagh Dam. There are also reports that the information ministry is using its "influence" particularly on the Sindhi newspapers to initiate a pro-dam campaign. This government campaign in support of Kalabagh Dam has seriously threatened the life and security of journalists.

The resignation of the entire staff of Khabroon is an unprecedented incident in the press history of Pakistan, showing how touchy the "dam issue" is in this province.

Journalist organisations in Pakistan have also appealed to the All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS) and Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors (CPNE) to take notice of the decision of the management of daily Khabrein, which has moved the court in support of the Kalabagh Dam and has thus taken a partisan role on a political issue. Such a move has threatened the security of the journalists of newspapers in Sindh.

“The attack on newspapers and journalists is an attack on the profession and freedom of expression. We join our Pakistani colleagues in rasing a voice against this assault on press freedom, “ said the IFJ president.

The police have reportedly registered a case against unknown assailants and the Sindhi government has deployed paramilitary rangers at the Khabroon office in Sukkur for the staff's security.

“The IFJ appeals to the people of Sindh in general and to political parties and nationalist groups in particular to refrain from targeting newspapers or journalists as it could go against the interests of Sindh and is against freedom of the press which is one of the foundations of democracy,” said Warren.

For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0919

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