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Pakistani media worker killed, others injured in violent protests

(PPF/IFEX) - September 24, 2012 - Violent protests that erupted against the anti-Islam film "Innocence of Muslims" took a heavy toll on media professionals in Pakistan. One media worker was killed and many others were injured as they covered the protests that turned violent in many cities of the country.

Muhammad Aamir Liaqat, 33, ARY News television driver, was killed when police opened fire on demonstrators staging a violent protest outside a cinema on September 21, 2012 in Peshawar, the capital city of Khyber-Paakhtoonkhwa province, against the anti-Islamic video "Innocence of Muslims".

Liaqat was shot in the chest as he was trying to reach an area where police officers were targeting protesters with live rounds to protect a cinema. Three rounds hit the vehicle and one of the bullets struck Liaqat. He was rushed to a hospital, where he died. He leaves behind three sons (one only seven days old) and a widow. Liaqat had been associated with the ARY television channel since 2007.

Protesters also attacked the Peshawar Press Club (PPC) and broke all CCTV cameras by pelting stones. Windowpanes and the main gate were also damaged.

The Khyber Union of Journalists (KhUJ) and other journalists held a demonstration at the PPC against the killing of Liaqat. Meanwhile, PPC president Saiful Islam and KhUJ president Arshad Aziz Malik condemned the police brutality and demanded the immediate arrest of the policemen involved.

The media was also targeted during similar protests in other cities. A Samaa TV crew was attacked while covering a protest in Karachi and their news van was set on fire. Protesters also attacked five cinemas, namely Nishat, Bambino, Capri, Gulistan and Prince Cinema, and set them on fire.

Rai Shahnawaz, the correspondent for Express News television station in Lahore, the capital city of Punjab province, told PPF that he, along with the TV station's senior correspondent Talib Faridi, suffered a head injury after being hit by a stone thrown by protesters. He said the police also broke a camera operator's camera and tripod stand and slapped another cameraman in order to intercept coverage of the riots.

In Hyderabad, the second largest city of Sindh province, journalists were beaten and dragged by protesters who complained that they were not being given proper coverage and that the media was only reporting on a particular group of protesters and ignoring them. In Hyderabad, at least six journalists were beaten, dragged and pelted with stones. Two motorcycles, one belonging to reporter Abdul Qadir and another to cameraman Adnan Zai, were set ablaze while the rioters also ransacked the press club's reception before they were pushed out. Furqan Rajput, a correspondent for Express News, told PPF that the assailants hit him with batons, kicked him and dragged him on the footpath. He received injuries on his legs, chest and head. The demonstrators shouted that he deserved this because the media is an associate of the enemies of Islam. Rajput was saved by other religious group activists, he said.

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