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An insecure regime targets the press

There were journalists holding their heads as blood streamed down their faces, reports Kamal Siddiqi.

world Updated: Nov 21, 2007 22:20 IST
Kamal Siddiqi

The difference between courting arrest and being arrested, said the constable sitting with us in the back of a police van, was that we get beaten less when we willingly give ourselves up. For me, this was a first time experience, but one that I had no regrets taking. The scene outside the Karachi Press Club on Tuesday evening resembled that of a war zone.

There were journalists holding their heads as blood streamed down their faces.

They had been given a good clubbing as they protested against the curbs on the media, primarily the closure of Geo TV, Pakistan's leading independent channel. In my 16 years as a journalist, I have rarely seen such brutality on the media as I saw that day. And I was outraged.

Along with other journalists, we willingly sat in a police van and courted arrest. Hundreds had been taken away in police vans earlier. The idea was to show out solidarity and also register our protest. The police seemed unprepared for the numbers. We were taken from one police station to another. It seemed many were overflowing with people belonging to different media organisations.

Finally, we ended up in the company of 25 others arrested earlier and settled in at the Docks police station. The wait had just begun. As we compared notes it became apparent that four journalists, who had apparently taken the brunt of the police action, were missing from the thanas where most others were locked up.

Rumours flew thick and fast. We were being charged. Cases were being prepared. We would be sent to Central Jail. We were in for some time. Most of the police officers seemed sympathetic to our cause. One of them confessed that he was not at all happy. “You people and we people will be here even when the government changes. Why do we have to go on with this circus?" he asked.