Pakistan journalists demand AJ staff freedom

Hundreds of journalists march in cities and towns of Pakistan demanding release of four jailed Al Jazeera staff.

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    Journalists in more than a dozen Pakistani cities have marched in solidarity with Al Jazeera staff jailed in Egypt by the country’s military-installed government.

    Hundreds responded to the call by the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) for marches on Monday against the actions of the interim government in Egypt.

    "Don't treat journalists like terrorists. Don't punish them like criminals. Only through respect for the media, can the Egyptian government put its case before the world," the PFUJ said.

    Al Jazeera English journalists, Peter Greste, Mohammad Fahmy and Baher Mohammad have been held in prison for nearly two months after their arrest in Cairo. They face a court hearing on February 20.

    Afzal Butt, the PFUJ's president, told Al Jazeera: "We were with you, we are with you and we will continue our protest in Pakistan against their illegal detention". 

    It was one of the biggest international protests for the release of Al Jazeera staff. Journalists in 20 cities, including Multan, Karachi, Lahore and Peshawar, came out in solidarity with the jailed Al Jazeera journalists.

    “As a representative body of thousands of Pakistani journalists, we express complete unity with the families of our detained colleagues Baher Mohammad, Mohammad Fahmy and Peter Greste,” Butt of PFUJ said.

    Mazhar Abbas, a former journalist union leader, said their commitment and conviction to the profession is only to inform people, even at the cost of their lives, he said.

    “The PFUJ, since its inception in 1950, had always supported the journalists around the world who were punished in the line of duty, whether journalists jailed in Latin American countries in the 60s and 70s, or in Sri Lanka, Nepal, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and Egypt. We were the first who staged a protest demonstration outside the US Consulate in Karachi, when during the war in Iraq, a rocket attack in a hotel killed and injured several journalists," Abbas said.

    The Pakistan Federal union of journalists has vowed to continue its protests "if journalists are not released soon". Its federal executive council, which is meeting in Quetta, the capital of Balochistan from February 21 to 23, will also consider a call to begin a hunger strike outside the Egyptian Embassy in Islamabad.

    Al Jazeera English's Greste, Fahmy and Baher Mohamed have been in jail since December 29. Abdullah al-Shami, from the Arabic sister channel, was arrested in August and is in the third week of a hunger strike. They are charged with "spreading false news" and having links to "terrorist organisations".

    Al Jazeera rejects the charges in the strongest of terms.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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