Government raids several newspaper offices

New York, July 20, 2005—Police in Karachi cracked down on Islamic fundamentalist publications in the past week, raiding the offices of several newspapers, arresting four journalists and several newspaper vendors, and confiscating copies of the publications.

On Saturday, police raided and shut down the offices of the fundamentalist Urdu-language weekly Zarb-i-Islam, arresting editor Nasir Ali Jahangir and assistant editor Mohammad Saleem, according to local news reports. During the raid, police confiscated copies of another weekly, Zarb-i-Momin. In a raid on newspaper stands that followed, police arrested at least five vendors, Mohammad Imran, Abdul Latif, Abdul Rehman, Mazhar Abbas, and Mohammad Irfan.

In a separate raid on Tuesday, police shut down the offices of the Urdu-language weekly Friday Special, a subsidiary of the daily Jasarat, and arrested assistant editor Abdul Latif Abu Shamil. Jasarat is a publication associated with Jamaat-i-Islami, an opposition Islamic political party. The same day, police searched the offices of the independent weekly Wajood and arrested editor and publisher Mohammed Tahir. They also raided the offices of the weekly Ghazi and daily Ummat.

Police told local reporters that the weeklies published articles that incited hatred and violence, and that the raids followed orders from ranking government authorities. No cases have yet been filed against the reporters or weeklies, according to media reports and local journalists.

The Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors (CPNE) today condemned the raids and held a protest calling for the release of the detained journalists and vendors, and the withdrawal of the ban on the publications, according to a local media group, the Pakistan Press Foundation.

Local sources told the Committee to Protect Journalists that the raids might be related to intense international pressure on Pakistan after the July 7 terrorist bombings in London. At least two of the four suicide bombers had traveled to Pakistan within the past year, according to international news reports.

“We are concerned that the government of Pakistan is using fears over religious and sectarian extremism to pressure newspapers and curb freedom of the press,” CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said.