Pakistani journalists face warrantless arrests

New York, December 3, 2007 — The Committee to Protect Journalists is greatly concerned by the Pakistani government’s authorization of police to arrest without warrant members of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), the country’s largest media organization. The legal move also mentions members of the Rawalpindi/Islamabad Union of Journalists, Pakistan’s largest local journalist organization.

Government officials filed a First Information Report on November 29 in Islamabad. According to Mazhar Abbas, the PFUJ’s secretary general, the report refers to placards and pamphlets at a PFUJ protest on November 14 against anti-media ordinances put into place by President Pervez Musharraf when he suspended the constitution on November 3. According to Abbas, the report claims the posters and pamphlets contained “anti-state sentiments” that were insulting to the military. Abbas said PFUJ did not distribute or authorize the material. Abbas also says it is the first time this kind of report has been used against an organization, rather than an individual or group of individuals. Abbas was one of CPJ’s four International Press Freedom Award winners this year.  

“This is outright intimidation by the government—an attempt to silence journalist organizations that are confronting the government in the wake of Musharraf’s actions to silence the media,” said Joel Simon, CPJ’s executive director. “These charges leave the threat of arrest and detention without warrant or warning hanging over journalists’ heads. They must be withdrawn immediately.”

The authorization brought by the government came a week after 180 journalists were detained in Karachi for protesting the government’s crackdown on media following his declaration of a state of emergency on November 3.