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Police detain, assault journalist for "negative" reporting

(PPF/IFEX) - Mustafa Tarin, bureau chief of the ARY News TV channel, was detained and beaten by the police in Quetta, capital city of the south western province of Balochistan, on April 23, 2010 for allegedly reporting on a police rally in a "negative way". Two days later police detained 20 journalists who were protesting the manhandling of Tarin.

Tarin told a press conference at the Quetta Press Club that he was going home at night when policemen intercepted him in the suburbs of the city and asked him to show his vehicle's registration papers. Tarin showed them his press card and documents for the vehicle, but they took him to the police station and seized his mobile phone. He said in the police station they taunted him, saying that negative media reporting was responsible for the failure of a struggle by policemen for an increase in salaries. Tarin said the police officials started beating him, tore his clothes and used abusive language before throwing him in the lockup.

A reporter for ARY News, Abdullah Magsi, told PPF that Tarin was able to inform his brothers from the lockup about his arrest. His brothers informed Magsi about Tarin's detention. Magsi reached the police station but he was neither allowed inside the police station nor informed about the detention. Later, Magsi contacted the Superintendent of Police (SP), Zaman Tarin, who ordered officials of the police station to release Tarin. Magsi said Tarin was then allowed to go home after a detention of four hours. Magsi told PPF that Tarin had received bruises on his body as well on his eye due to police beating.

The Balochistan Union of Journalists (BUJ) and the Quetta Press Club (QPC) strongly condemned the manhandling of Tarin by police and warned that if action is not taken against the responsible policemen within 24 hours, they would stage a sit-in outside the Chief Minister's Secretariat.

On April 25, as local journalists tried to go to the Chief Minister's Secretariat to stage a demonstration, the police arrested some journalists and some others in front of the Balochistan Chief Minister's House and sent them to Civil Line Police Station.

Those arrested included Abdullah Magsi; Ayub Khan Tarin, reporter for the BBC; Azam Alfat, reporter for ARY News; Akhtar Gulfham, reporter for ARY News; Muhammad Haroon, reporter for Channel 5; Abdul Sattar, Bureau Chief at Waqt News; Jhangeer Khan, reporter for Dunyia TV; Mahmood, reporter for Express News; Irfan Rana, reporter for Express News; Saif Baloch, reporter for TV One, Shahzad Baloch, correspondent of the daily "Azadi Quetta"; Murtaza Zohri, correspondent of the daily "Express"; Fateh Shakir, cameraman for Dawn News; Ameenullah Mengal, cameraman for ARY News; Khyber Jan, cameraman for ARY News; Aijaz Raisaani, cameraman for ARY News; Shahzad Yahya, cameraman for Dunyia TV; and Tawab Khan, cameraman for Waqt News TV. Some staff members of media organizations were also arrested, including Muhammad Akhtar and Habibullah, the direct satellite news gathering (DSNG) operator of ARY News.

When the arrested journalists arrived at the police station, Provincial Minister Mir Sadiq Umrani and Senator Ismail Buledi intervened and released them all. The journalists ended a boycott of police department functions on April 25 following the announcement of the suspension of three policemen, including station house officer Azmat Khan, by Provincial Minister Umrani. The Chief Minister also formed a committee headed by the commissioner of the Quetta division, Mir Naseem Lehri, to probe the matter and submit a report on the alleged manhandling of the journalist.

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