Outrage as 14-year-old son of Pakistani journalist beaten for his father’s reporting

New York, September 14, 2007— The Committee to Protect Journalists is outraged by the assault on Hassan Sharjil, the 14-year-old son of prominent journalist Shakil Ahmad Turabi, editor-in-chief of the South Asian News Agency. Hassan was beaten by a man outside his school today in Islamabad as he was dropped off for classes at around 6:45 a.m. Another man remained at the wheel of a four-door white pickup truck parked nearby while the beating took place. The pair had shouted to the boy from the truck before the attack began. Pakistani journalists say this is one of the types of vehicles frequently used by plainclothes government security forces.

Hassan’s father told CPJ that the man beating his son told him, “We warned your father to stop writing lies, but he wouldn’t listen. This will teach him a lesson.” Hassan has been moved from the hospital to his family’s home for safety. He was badly beaten on the head and his back was heavily bruised, his father said.

His father, Turabi, had been assaulted on May 18, when he was pulled from his car and beaten in a commercial area of the capital at around 10:45 a.m. That attack came during political tension surrounding the ouster of Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry by President Pervez Musharraf. The day before the May 18 attack, Turabi had written a piece that contradicted government claims that local police, not government intelligence agents, had roughed up Chaudhry when the judge was detained in March.

“For thugs to attack a 14-year-old schoolboy because they do not like what his journalist father writes is an indicator of how little respect for the basic level of law and order remains in the nation’s capital,” said Joel Simon, CPJ’s executive director. “We call upon the authorities to open a full investigation or prosecution and bring those responsible to justice. If not, this incident will be just another gash in the fabric of Pakistan’s disintegrating civil society.”

Turabi said that though he had filed a complaint with the police about today’s attack on his son, he expects the police will not take action or investigate. They did not take action on his case in May, either.

Attacks on journalists by plainclothes police are common in Pakistan and are becoming worse as the political atmosphere heats up about upcoming presidential elections. On September 11, CPJ wrote an open letter to President Musharraf, expressing concern about reports of brutal attacks on journalists by security personnel during that morning’s arrival of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in Islamabad.