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Journalists protest over death threats

Clerics are urged to condemn militant violence

Journalists protest over death threats
Journalists protest outside the Lahore Press Club on Monday
ucanews.com reporter, Lahore
Pakistan

March 19, 2013

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Media workers in Lahore protesting against death threats from militant groups have called on clerics to denounce Islamic militancy.

At least 100 workers including members of the Punjab Union of Journalists and the Lahore Photo Journalists Association gathered outside the Lahore Press Club on Monday to condemn what they call a campaign of intimidation by the Taliban and banned religious organizations.

“We urge religious clerics to openly condemn terrorists…. The fire has reached us and it will spare no one. Pakistan will not exist without journalists,” said Imtiaz Alam Editor of the South Asian Journal, a quarterly magazine.

The protest follows a bomb threat made against the Lahore Press Club by an unknown group last week.

We received pamphlets which said, “prepare to be bombed,” the club’s president Arshad Ansari said.

“We want to voice our concerns and will not go down silently,” he told ucanews at Monday’s protest.

Journalists in Pakistan are usually threatened by the Taliban for being speaking against religious groups involved in terrorism.

More than 90 journalists have been killed in the country since 2000. Three have been killed so far this year.

UNESCO ranked Pakistan as “the second most dangerous country for journalists” last year.

Rising sectarian violence has heightened fears for non-Sunni journalists like Azhar Jafri who was also at Monday’s protest.

The majority of Muslims in Pakistan are Sunni. The minority Shia have increasingly become targets of militant groups.   

Jafri, a Shia who has been a photojournalist for more than four decades, received a bundle of threatening pamphlets earlier this month.

“They abused Shia religious leaders and called me pro-Iran [a Shia majority country]. My family has lived in fear since then,” he said.

“The interpreters of Islam in Pakistan have deformed it but I know my religion teaches humanity,” he added.

"The police offered me one constable but I prefer not to be conspicuous. It's like a civil war here and things are getting worse for religious minorities."

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