CPJ outraged by journalists’ treatment
By Khalid Hasan
WASHINGTON The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has expressed its outrage at the treatment given by Pakistani authorities to journalists accompanying Muslim League leader Shahbaz Sharif to Lahore earlier this week.
In a statement, Ann Cooper, CPJ executive director, said, “We are outraged by these blatant press freedom violations. Authorities targeted and illegally detained journalists who were trying to cover an important news event. Sadly, this appears to be part of an overall deterioration of conditions for journalists in Pakistan, and we urge authorities to reverse this disturbing trend.”
The New York-based CPJ is an independent, non-profit organisation that works to safeguard press freedom worldwide.
The CPJ said Zaffar Abbas, a producer with the BBC, and Ali Faisal Zaidi, his cameraman accompanied Mr Sharif on his flight from Abu Dhabi to Lahore to cover his homecoming after three years in exile. Both were pulled aside by the police as they left the plane at Lahore, though they identified themselves as journalists. The police confiscated Mr Zaidi’s camera and Mr Abbas’ recording equipment. It also took their passports, and put them in a police prison truck, where they were confined for almost an hour. After their release, their equipment and passports were returned, but their tapes were not. Security forces and elite police commandos were deployed throughout the airport sealing off the building.
The CPJ also took exception to the detention of CNN producer Syed Mohsin Naqvi at this home in Lahore on the evening of May 10, the police claiming to have received a tip that there was a bomb in the journalist’s home. They searched the premises but would not leave, despite Mr Naqvi’s request that they to so. As a result, the journalist missed a flight he had planned to take to Abu Dhabi that evening to accompany Shahbaz Sharif to Lahore.