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Paramilitary forces and government intelligence agencies besiege offices of newspapers in Quetta

(PPF/IFEX) - The paramilitary Frontier Corps (FC) and government intelligence agencies besieged the offices of the Urdu-language dailies "Asaap" and "Azadi" and the English-language daily "Balochistan Express", in Quetta, the capital city of Pakistan's insurgency-plagued Balochistan province.

The daily "Asaap" shut down its publication on 19 August 2009, saying that its office has been under siege by the government intelligence agencies since 1 August and it was not able function under these circumstances.

The FC personnel began the siege of the offices of the "Balochistan Express" and "Azadi" on 21 August. The newspapers said security agents are carrying out body searches and intense questioning of the staff on their arrival and departure from the offices. They also blocked the main entrance of the colony in which the offices of the newspapers are located and prevented vehicles and people from visiting their offices.

Asif Baloch, the editor of the "Balochistan Express" and "Azadi", told PPF that the FC personnel had harassed journalists working for the two newspapers. The staff members were held by the FC personnel for several hours and interrogated.

The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) has expressed its dismay and grave concern over the terrorising and harassment of the editorial and other staff members and characterised it as a direct attack on freedom of expression and the press.

In a statement issued on 22 August, the PFUJ urged the chief justice of Pakistan to take notice of these serious incidents of "high handedness" by the law enforcement agencies and their involvement in violating the fundamental rights of citizens.

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