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Ethnic political group allied with ruling party releases journalist "hit list"

(PPF/IFEX) - The Mohajir Rabita Council (MRC), an ethnic political group in Pakistan's southern province of Sindh, has issued a list of twelve Pakistani journalists it denounced as being "chauvinists", and criticized their alleged role in the violence during protest rallies held in Karachi on 12 May 2007, during the visit of the suspended Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftekhar Mohammed Chaudhary to the city.

The MRC is considered to be closely associated with the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), the party allied to President Pervez Musharraf and the main coalition partner in the Sindh provincial government.

In a press statement, the vice-president and secretary general of MRC said the organization had established a special unit to inform the new generation about their "enemies". The statement also condemned certain television programmes and accused them of "playing a dangerous game to destroy Pakistan by igniting linguistic prejudices."

The names of the journalists on the list include: Zafar Abbas of the daily newspaper "Dawn"; Azhar Abbas of Dawn TV; Mazhar Abbas of AFP; Ayaz Amir, a "Dawn" columnist; Sajjad Mir of TV One; Irfan Siddiqui of daily "Nawa-e-Waqt"; Dr. Shahid Masood of Geo TV; Aneeq Ahmed of ARY TV; Asfar Imam of Aaj TV; Zahid Hussain of Geo TV; Shaheen Sehbai of ARY TV; and Zarar Khan of AP. Also included in the list was Iqbal Haider, secretary general of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP).

A press release issued by the Karachi Union of Journalists (KUJ) expressed concern at the MRC statement, which it described as a serious threat to free media and an attempt to gag the press. The KUJ said the MRC and MQM will be held responsible if any harm came to the journalists whose names have been mentioned in the MRC statement. KUJ demanded the government take serious notice of what it termed as an attack on the media.

A press release issued by Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) expressed great concern at the "issuance of such a hit list", which it deems a direct threat to media independence.

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