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Media personnel assaulted by doctors in Lahore

(PPF/IFEX) - At least fourteen staff members of media organizations were injured on 31 March 2010, when dozens of doctors and paramedics attacked them. The media personnel were trying to cover a protest demonstration staged by the family of an elderly woman who died, allegedly due to negligence, in Jinnah hospital, Lahore, the capital city of Punjab, Pakistan's largest province.

According to press reports, Farzana, the 60-year-old female patient, died in the Jinnah Hospital and her family members alleged negligence by the doctors. As teams of TV channels reached the hospital to cover the protest, doctors and paramedics attacked them. They kicked and punched reporters and cameramen resulting in injuries and damage to their equipment. All this took place in presence of the police who did nothing to stop the attackers. Prof Dr Javed Akram, principal of Allama Iqbal Medical College (AIMC) affiliated with Jinnah Hospital, was also present but did not try to stop the doctors.

Muhammad Ilyas, bureau chief of Express News, told PPF that the angry doctors injured him, his two reporters Sajjad Shafique Butt and Rashid Mehmood, three cameramen - Rizwan Anwer, Asad and Rehan - and two drivers - Aijaz and Shafique. They sustained injuries on their head, face, back and arms. Ilyas said that doctors snatched and damaged three cameras and also stoned the TV van.

Liaquat Bashir, cameraman for Samaa TV, told PPF that he was also injured in the incident. He said senior Samaa TV reporter Rai Hasnain Tahir, who is also the president of the Punjab Union of Journalists (PUJ), was thrashed by the doctors who also tore his clothes.

Faisal Khan, cameraman for Geo News, told PPF that he and his colleague cameraman Khuwaja Aamir also sustained injuries on their body for which they had to undergo treatment. He said the attackers damaged two cameras.

Aaj TV cameraman Muhammad Wasim and driver Muhammad Tahir were also assaulted by hospital staff but they were able to flee from the spot, although the windowpanes of their van were shattered.

It was also reported that some doctors and paramedical staff of the hospital also vandalised the nearby three-storey office of Saher Cable Network.

Punjab Chief Minister Mian Shahbaz Sharif has taken notice of the incident and formed a three-member inquiry committee to probe the matter.

Later in the night of 31 March, angry journalists gathered at the Faisal Chowk, Charing Cross and Kalma Chowk, in Lahore and blocked traffic to protest against the attack. Law Minister Rana Sanaullah met the protesters but failed to satisfy them. No criminal complaint had been registered as of 1 April.

Journalists have widely condemned the attack and have demanded that the authorities concerned look into the matter. PUJ President Tahir said the journalism community was shocked by the incident.

Shamsul Islam Naz, secretary general of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) announced that journalists were planning to hold rallies on 1 April, to protest against the barbarism faced by the media persons at Jinnah Hospital.

The journalists also decided to boycott all types of functions and activities by the doctors, on any issue, till the acceptance of their demands. Journalists have demanded the immediate arrest of those doctors and their accomplices who took part in the assault on the media personnel.

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