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Five journalists among nine people arrested in Karachi for protesting police raid on largest newspaper group

(PPF/IFEX) - Police in Pakistan's largest city, Karachi, raided and threatened to seal the printing press of the Jang Group, Pakistan's largest media house, on 5 November 2007, after the management refused to follow verbal orders from government officials to stop printing the daily "Awam", one of the group's evening newspapers.

According to the Jang Group, "Awam" managers had decided to print an extra supplement to meet the need for information by the public, starved of credible news following closure of the country's private news channels after the proclamation of emergency by President General Pervez Musharraf on 3 November 2007.

Officials of the Press Information Department (PID) had phoned "Awam" editor Nazeer Leghari and directed him not to print a supplement. However, when these verbal orders were not followed, the officials came to the printing press of the newspaper and threatened workers there. After this, police also arrived on the scene and threatened to seal the printing press.

At this, hundreds of journalists and press workers gathered at Jang's press, and management and editors held discussions with the PID and the police. When asked under what law they were threatening to seal the press, or whether this threat extended to all Jang group publications and indeed to the entire print media of the country, the officials said they had received orders only in respect to the afternoon paper "Awam". When the management refused to back down, the government officials withdrew.

Later on 5 November, police disrupted a demonstration of journalists and civil society activists, held to protest the raid, and arrested nine people, including five journalists outside the press club in Karachi.

Journalists who were arrested include: Mohammad Mohsin, reporter for Indus TV; Shariq Ahmed, a photographer for the daily newspaper "Khabrain"; Nazeer Khan, a photographer for the daily "Nawa-i-Waqt"; Fazal-ur-Rahman, a reporter for the daily "Mehshar"; and Asghar Shah, a cameraman for Aaj television station.

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