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Pakistan: Amnesty International condemns intimidation and arrests of journalists

Amnesty International today condemned the arrest of at least 100 journalists after police baton-charged a peaceful demonstration against curbs on media.

Amnesty International Secretary General Irene Khan said:

"Amnesty International condemns the continuing intimidation of journalists in Pakistan including the arrest of at least 100 journalists - many of whom were beaten - holding peaceful a protest in Karachi against media curbs."

Amid reports that the Karachi journalists have been released, Amnesty International is concerned that they and other journalists remain at risk of intimidation, detention and possible ill-treatment. On 17 November 2007, the editor of the Islamabad Urdu-language daily newspaper Tulu was arrested at his office by plainclothes police. During his detention he was blindfolded, taken to an unidentified place and questioned about his writings. He was informed that he had been arrested on the orders of senior government officials. He was released on 19 November.

Irene Khan said:

"General Musharraf is playing a game of smoke and mirrors with the Pakistani people and the international community.

“While the government suggests that it is relaxing its crackdown on peaceful opposition by highlighting the release of thousands of detainees, new arrests continue across the country including these arrests in Karachi.

"Those seeking to defend free speech in Pakistan will continue to be a key target of the authorities until draconian media laws, tightened since the emergency, are repealed."

Pakistan's free media was one of the first groups affected by the imposition of emergency rule on 3 November. All independent TV channels, including international channels transmitted by cable, were blocked hours before the emergency came into force. While restrictions on international news channels have been lifted, independent channels transmitting from Pakistan remain blocked.

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