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Camera operator struck by stray bullet at Punjab Assembly premises

(PPF/IFEX) - On 14 March 2011, Mohammad Fayyaz Qamar, 25, a Lahore-based cameraman for Dunya News TV, was shot and injured in the premises of Punjab Assembly, a high security zone in Lahore, while he was covering an event. A stray bullet hit him while he was sitting in an area designated for journalists.

According to press reports the incident took place when the Punjab Assembly's 23rd session was in progress and just before Speaker Rana Muhammad Iqbal Khan gave a short break for prayer. Around 80 journalists from different media organisations were present inside the media camp when a 30-bore pistol bullet came from the direction of Wapda House, piercing through the tent, and hit the back of the cameraman after rebounding from a chair. The rescue team took Qamar to a local hospital where he was given first aid and he is said to be out of danger.

Following the incident, many journalists led by the president of the Punjab Union of Journalists (PUJ), Rana Azeem, and the president of the Lahore Press Club, Sarmad Bashir, boycotted the assembly proceedings and held a protest demonstration in the Punjab Assembly Press Gallery. They said that this act indicated a security lapse at the Punjab Assembly. They also demanded the immediate adjournment of the House and a proper investigation into the matter. Later, the Speaker adjourned the House to show solidarity with the journalists.

Pakistan Federal Minister for Information Dr. Firdous Ashiq Awan condemned the incident and said that any act of terrorism against the media is unacceptable.

Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah assured the journalists that action would be taken against the policemen responsible for the security lapse.

PUJ President Azeem told Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF) that he has registered a case at the police station and that in his complaint he described the incident as an attack on press freedom. Azeem said this was a warning and a threat to journalists who always report the truth.

On 15 March, journalists walked out off the Punjab Assembly in a protest against the attack on press freedom.

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