Journalists in the town of Badin in Pakistan’s southern Sindh province have been protesting against the police for falsely involving ten journalists in criminal complaints.
Three of the journalists have been charged under the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA).
The journalists said that they are being victimized for covering the activities of Dr. Zulfiqar Mirza, a dissident politician and former member of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), the ruling party in Sindh province.
Tanveer Arain, President of the Badin Press Club, said that journalists were preforming their duties during a police siege of Mirza’s farmhouse.
Murtaza Memon, a journalist facing charges under ATA, said police falsely claimed he had stormed a Badin police station along with supporters of Mirza. He also said that police had raided journalists’ houses but he fled Karachi.
According to Khurshid Abbasi, Secretary General of PFUJ, the administration claimed these journalists were supporting Mirza, even though they were only covering his visits to the district.
Abbasi said two local PPP leaders had conveyed to journalists the message that their names could be removed from these cases if they submitted a written apology for the coverage they had given to Mirza and promised they would not report on his events in the future.
Dr Ashothama Luhano of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said raiding homes, beating people and hampering professional duties of the media all appeared associated to the ongoing political conflict in the province.
Those who have been named in criminal cases include Mumtaz Memon and Niaz Memon of the Daily Sindh; Yousuf Jani and Dir Murad Mari of the DailyKoshish; Shankar Kumar and Meharrudin Mari of the Daily Hilal e Pakistan; Shafqat Pinyaro of the Daily Sindh Express News, Aachar Azeem of the DailyTameer e Sindh; Murtaza Memon, a reporter at Neo TV, and Haji Khan Lashari, a member of the Talhar Press Club.
Cases have been registered under the ATA against Murtaza Memon, Meharrudin Mari and Haji Khan Lashari.
Journalists have been holding protest meetings in major cities of the province including Karachi, Hyderabad Sukkur and Badin, and have demanded the government form a judicial commission to investigate the police action and allegations.