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Cameraman, reporter shot while covering protest rally; journalist detained and beaten in Wana

(PPF/IFEX) - May 23, 2012 - Muhammad Khalil Adil, a cameraman for the Dunya News television station, and Aslam Khan, a correspondent for the same station, were struck by stray bullets while covering a political rally that had been fired upon. The incident took place on Tuesday May 22 in Karachi, the largest city in Pakistan.

Unidentified assailants armed with automatic weapons opened fire on the rally organised by nationalist parties in Sindh province, southern Pakistan, to protest a recent wall chalking campaign calling for the division of Sindh province along ethnic lines. Eleven people were killed and over 30 injured as a result of the shootings and the rioting and arson attacks that followed.

Shakil Adil, a correspondent for Associated Press of Pakistan news agency and the brother of Khalil Adil, told PPF that Khalil was shot in the left leg and the abdomen while Khan received injuries to his arm. He said Khalil had undergone a major operation and remained in critical condition.

In a separate incident, on May 18, Roshan Wazir, a correspondent for Online news agency, was attacked in Wana by personnel of The Frontier Constabulary (FC), a paramilitary force. Wana is the main town of the militancy-plagued South Waziristan Agency of the Federally Administrated Tribal Area (FATA) of Pakistan .

Anwer Shakir, a correspondent for the Bloomberg international television news network and a resident of Wana, told PPF that he along with Wazir and other journalists was sitting in a Scouts' Camp after covering a tribal Jirga (assembly of elders). At that point, some FC personnel entered and whisked away Wazir to their office and detained him for two hours. They beat the journalist with sticks. They alleged that Wazir had been filing baseless stories against them. They also warned him not to report the incident to authorities; otherwise, he would face serious consequences.

The Tribal Union of Journalists, South Waziristan Agency Unit, strongly condemned the assault on their colleague and asked the FC to take action against those involved in assaulting the journalist.

Finally, PPF reports that the government of Pakistan blocked access to the Twitter social networking website on May 20, for more than eight hours over "blasphemous" posts about a Facebook competition involving caricatures of Prophet Mohammed. The website was blocked by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), on the orders of the Ministry of Information and Technology after Twitter refused to remove messages about the Facebook contest.

Mohammad Yaseen, the chairman of PTA, the organization that regulates and supervises internet services in the country, said the site had been blocked because many people considered images of the Prophet Mohammed blasphemous. An official of the Ministry of Information and Technology had stated that a competition to post images of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was being held on Facebook and Twitter was being used for its promotion.

The PTA chairman said initially the Twitter management had agreed to address Pakistan's concerns about the competition, but later it refused to do so. "We negotiated with them until Saturday night, May 19, but the management did not give any assurance that they would remove the material, so we had no option but to block it," he said.

The government's move to block the website drew widespread criticism which was termed as a violation of freedom of expression and against fundamental human rights. Following strong criticism within the country, the government restored the social networking website.

The announcement regarding the unblocking of the website interestingly came directly from Interior Minister Rehman Malik on Twitter. "As committed, Twitter has been unblocked but I request (the management) to stop anti-Islam material on Twitter which hurts Muslim Ummah." The minister said: "I spoke to the Prime Minister and informed him how the people are feeling about the ban. The PM ordered [us] to reopen the Twitter. I also spoke to IT Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf about it."

In 2010 following a Lahore High Court ruling, Facebook was blocked in Pakistan for the same reason. Twitter has grown in popularity in the last few years and it is estimated that 6 million people use it in Pakistan.

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