22 January 1998


Journalists arrested and released on bail

Incident details

Jamil Chishti, Khalid Farooqui, Khalid Qayyum, Arshad Ansari, Abbas Rauf, Ahsan Zia



(PPF/IFEX) - On 19 January 1998, police raided the offices of the Urdu
daily "Pakistan" and arrested the editor, chief news editor and four
reporters of the newspaper on charges of publishing some objectionable
material in the 13 January edition of the newspaper. Editor Jamil Chishti,
chief news editor Khalid Farooqui, senior reporter Khalid Qayyum, reporters
Arshad Ansari, Abbas Rauf, Ahsan Zia and three non-journalist employees of
the daily were arrested and released the following day after they were
granted bail by a division bench of Lahore High Court.

A case was registered against the author of the article, the editor,
printer and the publisher of the newspaper, allegedly for publishing
material that provided for "deliberate and malicious outraging of religious
feelings". The article in question was based on excerpts from a classic
book, "Sada Bahar", by Maulana Shibli Naumani. It contained passages which
the government thought could further inflame already tense passions between
the extremist wings of Shia and Suni organizations.

On 20 January, the journalists were granted interim bail until 10 February
by the division bench of Lahore High Court, and they were released the same
day. It was observed by the court that prima facie, no substantial case was
made out against them as the matter under question was based on an authentic
book prescribed in post graduate courses.

According to press reports, a police posse encircled the building of "
Pakistan" on Monday 19 January at 7pm. The police then entered the building
and arrested the editor, Jamil Chishti, along with the chief news editor,
chief reporter and staff reporters who were later sent to the lock
up. On hearing the news, hundreds of local journalists reached the police
station and demanded the release of the detained journalists, but after
discovering the nature of the case, they dispersed peacefully.

The government action against the daily was condemned by Asma Jahangir,
chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP). She said the
action a week after the publication of extracts from a famous book was
unwarranted. She said that although the publication of extracts was a lapse
which should not have occurred, after the newspaper had apologized and
punished the staff responsible, the inadvertent offense could have been
forgotten and forgiven. According to Jahangir, raiding the newspaper's
offices and the arrest of its editor and other senior staff a week after the
event was to give the unfortunate incident a further lease on public life.

The Lahore Press Club, the Punjab Union of Journalists and the Photo
Journalists Association also condemned the arrests.


Pakistan Press Foundation
Press Centre
Shahrah Kamal Ataturk
Karachi 74200
ppf (@) pakistanpressfoundation.org
Fax:+92 21 221 7069
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