(RSF/IFEX) - In a letter to Naimatullah Khan, the chief of police in Kohat (north-west Pakistan), RSF protested the arrest of Zahid Amin Orakzai, correspondent for the daily "Khabrian" in this region. The press freedom organisation asked the representative of the State to ensure that "the journalist is immediately released". Robert Ménard, RSF's secretary-general, noted that in an 18 January 2000 document, the United Nations' Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression emphasised that "imprisonment as punishment for the peaceful expression of an opinion is a serious violation of human rights."
According to information obtained by RSF, Zahid Amin Orakzai, correspondent for the Islamabad-based Urdu daily "Khabrian" in the Kohat district (65 kilometres south of Peshawar, the capital of the north-west border province) was arrested on 9 August by order of the district administration. He is detained at the Kohat police station. The local government has accused him of writing an article published on 7 August in "Khabrian", in which he reported that men and women were "mixed" during a concert organised by the authorities for Pakistan's Independence Day. According to an official spokesman, Zahid Amin Orakzai deliberately "tried to shock readers." The journalist's lawyer considers that the arrest is not justified because the authorities did not even ask first for a clarification to be published in the newspaper. The arrest warrant was delivered by the district's deputy chief of police under Article 16 of the Law on Maintenance of Public Order and Sections 500 and 501 of the Criminal Procedure Code. The journalist's lawyer has filed a writ petition with the Peshawar High Court to challenge the Kohat administration arrest order. On 18 August, the court is to issue a ruling regarding the detention of the journalist, after hearing both sides of the affair.