New York, June 5, 2007—The Committee to Protect Journalists is alarmed that Pakistani police have filed a complaint against roughly 200 journalists on charges of defying a ban on political rallies. CPJ calls on the government to immediately withdraw the cases, which were announced today, and to stop its pattern of intimidation against journalists. The complaint comes after members of the press, led by the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists, demonstrated Monday outside the prime minister’s office in Islamabad. They were protesting a presidential ordinance enacted on Sunday that gives the government broadened powers to halt broadcasters’ transmissions, close offices, seize equipment, and revoke licenses. No arrests have been made so far.
“The threat of arrest directed against journalists is the latest attempt to silence Pakistan’s media,” said Joel Simon, CPJ’s executive director. “We call on the authorities to drop charges immediately.”
The police complaint against the journalists was part of a broader sweep of opposition activists detained nationwide; media reports put the number at several hundred. Antigovernment demonstrations have stepped up since President Pervez Musharraf, who is also army chief, suspended Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry on March 9 over unspecified misconduct. The move outraged lawyers and the opposition, and it has become the biggest challenge to Musharraf since he took power in 1999.
CPJ has recorded numerous attacks on the Pakistani media and, to mark World Press Freedom Day this year, named Pakistan one of the world’s worst press freedom backsliders. In a letter to CPJ that was received on Monday, the Pakistani government denied it has curtailed press freedom and claimed it has “taken unprecedented steps for the freedom of information and press.”
CPJ is a New York-based, independent, nonprofit organization that works to safeguard press freedom worldwide. For more information, visit www.cpj.org.