Journalists to go ahead with Monday's protest plan

By our correspondents

ISLAMABAD: Journalists of Rawalpindi and Islamabad announced on Saturday night they would go ahead with their planned protest on Monday and march from Aabpara to Ehtesab Bureau Islamabad to condemn attacks on press freedom.

"The hunger strike camps will remain, the children of Jang/The News employees will march in Rawalpindi and seminars/meetings arranged earlier will go according to the previous schedule," announced leaders of journalists' unions.

C R Shamsi, Senior Vice President PFUJ, Pervaiz Shaukat, Secretary General Rawalpindi Press Club and Rana Ghulam Qadir of the Jang group said despite talks between Jang group's chief executive and a high-level government team, their protest would continue as usual as it was arranged for the press freedom.

Shamsi said the audio tapes had made it clear that the government was adamant on the expulsion of journalists from the Jang/The News and posed a direct threat to the press freedom. He said the PFUJ, which had filed a separate case against the government in the Supreme Court, would keep on fighting for the working journalists.

Amir Waseem, President The News union told a meeting of the general body that the workers would continue to struggle for complete press freedom. He said unions were not meant for strike calls against the employers only but also help in upholding the press freedom whenever it faced threats. He thanked all workers for their help during the past few days and said they fought against all odds to make it a point that the publication of the Jang/The News did not discontinue.

"The fundamental issue of freedom of the press has not so far been resolved. The interference and obstruction in the work of the journalists are continuing through cohesive tactics by the government. Those involved in such actions are still in place, leaving little reason for us to stop efforts for restoration of the freedom of press", announced Amir Waseem. Also present was Tahir Malik, General Secretary of the union.

The Monday's protest demonstration will start at 2 pm from Aabpara Chowk and is likely to be attended by a large number of working journalists. In addition, intellectuals, writers, doctors, teachers, lawyers, human rights activists and senior politicians have sent messages to the Jang/The News saying they would also attend the protest demonstration. Secretary-General Rawalpindi Press Club Pervaiz Shaukat announced that the working journalists would not end their struggle for freedom of the press. He said the government had entered into a dialogue with the chief executive of the Jang Group because of mounting pressure and it might change its mind any time.

The workers unanimously demanded that the government would have to withdraw fabricated cases against two senior journalists, photographer and 80 workers of the Jang Group, if it claimed to be sincere in resolving the crisis. The case registered against them are non-bailable offences.

Meanwhile, Hussain Haqqani, Chairman Urban Democratic Front and a member of the central leadership of the opposition Pakistan Awami Ittehad demanded removal of Senator Saifur Rehman from the position of Chairman Ehtesab Bureau. "The conduct of Saifur Rehman in the repressive campaign against the Jang Group of newspapers had made it clear that he was unfit to be an officer of the law nor did he have the qualification or decency to wield so much power. Saif should be arrested and tried for abuse of power and hurling threats to seniors journalist for personal and political objectives".

The News International Pakistan