LAHORE, May 30: The Punjab Union of Journalists on Wednesday staged a demonstration in front of the Lahore Press Club to condemn death threats to three senior Karachi journalists.

A large number of city journalists carrying placards and banners urged the government to protect journalists. They also raised slogans against the MQM and the government.

The journalists given death threats included Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists Secretary General Mazhar Abbas, Zarar Khan and Asif Hussain.

Speaking on the occasion, PUJ President Arif Hameed Bhatti and General Secretary Amer Raza urged the government to take stern action against the MQM, and ban it. It should also expose those disturbing peace in Karachi, they said.

They also urged the Punjab government to ban the entry of the members of the party into Punjab.

They said the union would give a call for a hunger strike if the government failed to protect journalists who would continue to perform their duty without caring for the consequences.

Meanwhile, in a statement the South Asia Media Commission (SAMC) expressed its anger over threats to the life and property of journalists in Karachi and Peshawar given by, what it said, different extremist organizations. It urged the Pakistani authorities to protect the journalists.

The statement issued by SAMC Regional Coordinator Husain Naqi here said the life threats to the three Karachi journalists came a week after a shadowy organization, The Mohajir Rabita Council with links to the MQM, a party that supports military ruler President Pervez Musharraf, issued a list of a dozen journalists, declaring them as enemies, it said.

It said on May 25 gunmen attacked the Peshawar home of Daily Times cartoonist Muhammad Zahoor at around 2am. Four-time winner of the All Pakistan Newspaper Society’s annual best cartoonist award, Zahoor had drawn many cartoons on the Supreme Court chief justice’s dismissal in recent weeks.

The home of Nasrullah Afridi, the Urdu language daily Mashriq in the Khyber Agency section of the Tribal Areas, came under grenade attack after death threats made against him five days earlier by the head of Lashkar-i-Islam.

“We believe it is a very serious threat to working journalists. It is an attempt to muzzle the free media. The government should arrest those behind the threats,” SAMC Chairperson N Ram and General Secretary Najam Sethi said.

They said journalists needed to know that they would be protected from threats or attack. “If the government fails to do so, we will be justified in believing that there is complicity of the government in the current campaign to harass journalists,” they said.

They said the Muhajir Rabita Council had issued a threatening statement on May 22 with a list of some 20 journalists it described as chauvinist and hostile to their movement.

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