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Six journalists injured in airport attacks

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders has condemned a 12 May 2007 attack by members of the MQM (an extremist party that supports President Pervez Musharraf) on the offices of Aaj TV and the "Business Recorder" daily (a member of the same media group) in the southern city of Karachi, in which gunmen opened fire on the building while the station was providing live coverage of the MQM's violent, pro-Musharraf demonstrations.

Employees of the media group were trapped in the building by heavy gunfire for nearly six hours, during which time security forces did not intervene. An Aaj TV journalist told Reporters Without Borders the attacks began after the station refused to comply with MQM's request to stop covering the protests.

The MQM violence prevented a planned visit to Karachi by Chief Justice Iftikar Mohammed Chaudhry, whose dismissal last month triggered the current political crisis.

In a separate incident, six journalists were injured while covering developments at Karachi airport. Fareed Farooqi of the "Daily Times", Shahzad of CNBC TV and Aftab Baig of "Jang" newspaper were attacked and their equipment smashed. Sadruddin Sheikh of Rang TV was shot and wounded. Anwar Abassi of the NNI news agency and Ashraf Memon of "Express" newspaper were injured by flying glass.

The government of Sindh province (of which Karachi is the capital) also announced a one-month ban on a journalist from Aryone TV who was accompanying the chief justice.

In an opinion poll posted May 14 on Aaj TV's website, 81 per cent of participants responded "No" to the question: "Is the government's claim that the Pakistani press is free justified?"

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