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World Editors Forum board member arrested in Lahore, taken to undisclosed location during crackdown

(WAN/IFEX) - The following is a 7 November 2007 WAN press release:

His Excellency President General Pervez Musharraf
President of Republic of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan

7 November 2007

Your Excellency,

We are writing on behalf of the World Association of Newspapers and the World Editors Forum, which represent 18,000 publications in 102 countries, to express our serious concern at the jailing of at least six journalists, including World Editors Forum Board member Imtiaz Alam, and the crackdown on freedom of the press during the current state of emergency.

According to reports, as part of the clampdown on the media and civil society following the declaration of the state of emergency, on 5 November police in Lahore detained Mr. Alam, current affairs editor of The News and Secretary General of the South Asian Free Media Association. Mr. Alam was reportedly arrested and taken to an undisclosed location.

In a separate incident, at least five journalists were arrested during a demonstration against police attempts to seal the printing press of the Awam daily in Karachi. The arrested journalists include: Mohammad Mohsin, reporter for Indus TV; Shariq Ahmed, a photographer for the daily 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.

Dozens of journalists working for the independent media have reportedly been assaulted or prevented from working. Other attacks on press freedom include the suspension of broadcasts of all international and national private news channels, the restriction of cable broadcasts to entertainment programming and the blocking of a number of international and national news websites. Transmission equipment has also been seized from several broadcast media, and numerous criminal offences that severely restrict freedom of the press have been created.

We respectfully remind you that jailing Mr Alam and other journalists is a clear breach of their right to freedom of expression, which is guaranteed by numerous international conventions, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 19 of the Declaration states: "Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes the freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media, regardless of frontiers."

We respectfully call on you to ensure that Mr Alam and all other detained journalists are immediately and unconditionally released. We call on you to halt your crackdown on the media and to take all necessary steps to ensure that in future your country fully respects international standards of freedom of expression.

We look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.

Yours sincerely,

Gavin O'Reilly
World Association of Newspapers

George Brock
World Editors Forum

WAN is the global organization for the newspaper industry, with formal representative status at the United Nations, UNESCO and the Council of Europe. The organization groups 18,000 newspapers in 102 countries, 11 news agencies and nine regional and world-wide press groups. WAN is non-governmental and non-profit.

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