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Copies of newspaper torched; transmission of TV channel suspended

(PPF/IFEX) - Armed men snatched copies of the daily "The Express Tribune" and set them on fire on February 21, 2012. The incident occurred in the newspaper market in Quetta, the capital city of Pakistan's restive Balochistan province. The transmission of Express News, a TV channel belonging to the same media group, was also suspended for five days.

The arson was prompted by a talk show aired by Express News on February 15, in which two politicians, one of them a prominent nationalist leader of Balochistan, debated the topic of the murder of his father. Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti had been killed in a military operation on August 26, 2006. Some Baloch nationalists felt that trouble was deliberately stirred by the host and producer by bringing a supporter of former president General (retd) Pervaiz Musharraf on to the show to debate with Talal Bugti who alleged that Musharraf was behind the murder of his father.

Programme host Kamran Shahid apologized unconditionally on Twitter. The transmission of Express News resumed in Quetta on the evening of February 21, after a successful dialogue between the provincial government of Balochistan and Talal Bugti.

Balochistan Chief Minister Nawab Aslam Raisani, the All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS), the Jamhoori Watan Party (JWP), the Awami National Party (ANP) and the journalism community condemned the incident, terming it an attack on media freedom.

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