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RSF condemns threats against journalist Amir Mir

(RSF/IFEX) - As Pakistani Prime Minister Zafarullah Khan Jamali arrived on an official visit to France, RSF drew the French government's attention to a campaign of intimidation against respected investigative journalist Amir Mir that has been ongoing since March 2003.

In a letter to French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin, the organisation urged him to intercede on Mir's behalf during the Pakistani prime minister's 8 and 9 December visit.

On 22 November, unidentified persons set fire to Mir's car and shots were fired outside his home in Lahore, in the eastern province of Punjab. The government denied any involvement in the incidents, although they followed a long series of threats and acts of harassment against Mir by senior military and civilian officials, including Information Minister Rasheed Ahmed and the head of military intelligence in Punjab, Arslan Ali Khan. General Rashid Qureshi also accused Mir of being an "Indian agent" because of an article he wrote in the Indian magazine "Outlook".

Now deputy editor of the English-language monthly "Herald", Mir told RSF he fears for his life. "I am now being conveyed 'friendly' messages to leave Pakistan . . . I've already told my near and dear ones that if any harm is done to me, General Musharraf should be directly held responsible . . . I am really concerned for the safety of my family."

On 7 November, dozens of journalists in Islamabad demonstrated in support of Mir.

The recent acts of intimidation came after President Musharraf told a meeting of leading newspaper editors on 20 November that the editors of the "Herald" and monthly "Newsline" had not been invited because they published articles that "damaged Pakistan's international image."

In response to a question about the presence in Pakistan of Dawood Ibrahim, a reputed member of an Indian crime organisation, Musharraf said certain Pakistani newspapers published harmful reports that supported Indian allegations and therefore damaged Pakistan's national interests. The August and November issues of the "Herald" carried investigative reports by Mir on the matter.

On 18 March, when he was still editor of the "Weekly Independent", Mir publicly alleged that he had received threats from the Punjab state security minister, a former head of the ISI, Pakistan's secret service. Mir was forced to resign from his "Weekly Independent" post on 13 June after several months of pressure to change his editorial line.

The "Weekly Independent" claimed that President Musharraf himself chaired a meeting in Lahore at which it was decided to take concrete measures against the magazine, including the withdrawal of all government and state sector advertising. In a 12 June editorial, Mir wrote that it was not easy to keep a newspaper operating in a country where the army dominates politics and the security forces call up newspaper editors and owners to tell them what they can and cannot publish.

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