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Police assault TV cameraman in Lahore

(PPF/IFEX) - Farrukh Asif, a cameraman with television news channel Express News, was assaulted and illegally detained in the Gulberg Liberty Market Police station in Lahore while filming a protest on June 26, 2010.

According to a press report, Asif was filming police action against protestors at Liberty Parking Plaza. The Station House Officer (SHO), Ahsan Ashraf Butt, ordered him to stop the coverage and erase the footage. Butt asked his subordinate, who was in civil dress, to grab the cameraman. When Asif refused to obey his orders, the police officials snatched his camera and broke it into pieces. They then beat him with the butts of their guns, kicked him, and finally dragged him to the police station.

Rizwan Anwer, another Express News cameraman, told PPF that police were beating three protesters while Asif was recording the incident and that the officers tried to stop him from filming. When Asif tried to make a call to the Express News office, one of the officers snatched his phone, dragged him into in a room and beat him.

The Express News Lahore bureau chief, Muhammad Ilyas, went to the police station, where a large number of journalists from electronic and print media had also gathered to protest the police action against Asif.

Asif was ultimately allowed to be moved to a hospital, where he was given treatment and his condition was described as stable. Asif received injuries to his head, shoulder, back, arms and hands. His collar bone was also fractured. After six hours, the police returned Asif's badly damaged camera after removing the footage. They did not return his mobile phone.

The Chief Minister of Punjab, Shahbaz Sharif, took note of the incident, after which a complaint was registered against SHO Butt, 10 police officers and 16 other unidentified individuals. Butt has not been suspended, despite the Chief Minister's orders, and no arrests have been made in the incident.

The Punjab Union of Journalists (PUJ) held a protest rally during which PUJ President Rai Husnain Tahir and President of Lahore Press Club Sarmad Bashir strongly condemned the police heavy handedness. Tahir said that such incidents had become routine and would not be tolerated anymore. He also demanded that authorities take action against the police officials responsible for the assault on the Express News cameraman.

Journalists have also announced a protest rally for June 29.

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