(PPF/IFEX) - On 1 February 1999, a scuffle between law enforcement agencies
and journalists protesting government action against the Jang Group resulted
in injuries to three journalists. Demonstrators were angered by news that a
truckload of newsprint, along with the truck's driver and two passengers,
were taken to the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA). On reaching the FIA
offices, the journalists tried to meet with senior staff but were pushed,
beaten, abused and refused entry.
**Updates IFEX alerts of 2 February, 1 February and 8 January 1999, 16
December and 15 December 1998**
According to news reports, journalists Mariana Baabar, Shakil Sheikh and
Rana Mubashir wanted to discuss the issue of interim relief provided earlier
in the day by the Supreme Court (which ordered the release of the
confiscated newsprint) with senior FIA staff. The rally by journalists from
the "Jang" and "The News" dailies, organised to protest the government's
seizure of newsprint, blocked the city's main Muree Road (Rawalpindi) for
nearly five hours. The angry reporters burnt tyres, causing a massive
traffic jam, while heavy contingents of police patrolled the area. The
police were also stationed outside the newspaper offices.
On the same day, other protest rallies were staged outside the "Jang" office
and Parliament House, called by the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists
(PFUJ) to protest the government's action against "Jang". A scuffle started
between some reporters and police officers when the reporters noticed a
policeman videotaping and asked him not to film the protest rally. A
contingent of anti-riot police intervened and in the ensuing commotion some
journalists sustained serious blows.
On 2 February, the Rawalpindi Police registered a case against eighty
journalists of the "Jang" and "The News" dailies for staging demonstrations
in violation of section 144 of the penal code, which prohibits the assembly
of more than five persons.