Police beat protesting newsmen again

ISLAMABAD: Police have beaten journalists, who were demonstrating outside the Parliament on Tuesday in protest against government crackdown on the country's largest newspaper.

Several senior journalists, including Mariana Baabar, The News correspondent, were beaten by police who used steel-tipped batons, said Abdul Hamid Chapra, President of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists.

More than 100 journalists and newspaper workers, shouting anti-government slogans, accused Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of trying to curb press freedoms through a series of "harsh steps" against the Jang Group of Newspapers.

The government has charged the newspaper owner, Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, with customs duty and income tax evasion. The chief executive of the Jang Group, on the other hand, has accused the government of fabricating fake charges against him after his publications published stories of corrupt practices by Nawaz Sharif, his family members and friends and government colleagues.

"Police started beating us up when we objected to the filming of our demonstration by an intelligence agency official," said Mariana Baabar. "In just two days, I have been beaten twice by the police. I am not a political activist and can't take all this any longer," she told the Associated Press.

Chapra said the attack on journalists was a "blatant and ruthless use of force" by the police against the press. "But we will continue our struggle for the press freedom despite government's high-handedness," he said. Meanwhile, former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto denounced the government attack on journalists saying, "It is a shame that the regime has stooped so low and does not spare even women journalists."

She said the government wanted to cover its misdeeds and corruption by using state forces against the Jang Group. "If today the Jang Group is allowed to be victimised by the government then tomorrow it would be the turn of other newspapers," she said.

The News International Pakistan