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Pak journalist declines award from Musharraf

Amir Meer declined to accept the award saying he cannot receive it from a dictator who has "trampled constitution".

india Updated: May 28, 2006 18:25 IST

A prominent Pakistani journalist has refused to accept an award from President Pervez Musharraf, saying he cannot receive it from a military dictator who has "trampled constitution"

Amir Meer, who has written extensively on militant activities in Pakistan and is working for several Indian and foreign newspapers, was declared the best reporter for the year 2005 for his investigative report in 'Herald' magazine by the All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS), the organisation representing major Pakistani newspaper owners.

APNS gives awards every year to journalist for best reporting, feature writing and photographs.

Mir was supposed to receive the award at a function here on Friday from President Musharraf.

"In principle, I am unable to receive the award at the hands of a military dictator, who has on several occasions violated the constitution and has no respect for the country's highest laws," Mir wrote to the APNS President Mir Shakil-ur- Rehman.

He has sent copies of his letter to his journalist friends in and outside Pakistan. "Journalism is a sacred profession, whose foundation lays on freedom of expression.

"But on contrary, the APNS has invited a military dictator as chief guest for distribution of awards, who has no respect for the basic principle of press freedom. Being a military dictator he neither believes in freedom of expression nor tolerates difference of opinion," Mir said in his letter.

"It will be a stain on my APNS award to receive it from a military dictator in an APNS function," he wrote.

Several Pakistani journalists in the past have refused to receive awards from military ruler General Zia-ul-Haq and elected rulers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif but this is the first time that a scribe has refused to receive an award from Musharraf.

In his address at the awards function, Musharraf renewed his firm commitment to the freedom of press and declared that the government would facilitate access to information.

"I am for total freedom of the media, which is the fourth pillar of the state, and is the first line of defence in today's world," he said but at the same time underlined the importance of factual and research-based analytical journalism, saying the media was free to criticise and point out flaws in the implementation of government policies.

He said he did not believe in withholding information or hiding facts as he had "no skeletons in his closet."