Pakistan: Dozens of armed police raid Karachi Press Club
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns last night’s police raid on the Karachi Press Club in the strongest possible terms and calls on the Sindh province authorities to shed all possible light on this unprecedented and provocative act of intimidation.
The raid was carried out by dozens of armed plainclothes police who arrived at this prestigious Pakistani press institution at around 10:30 p.m., stormed inside and proceeded to search all the rooms, including meeting rooms, kitchens and the sports room.
According to a Karachi Press Club statement, the police harassed the journalists and club officials who were present, and took photos and shot video footage throughout their search without asking permission.
“It is absolutely intolerable that police officers should act in a completely illegal manner like this in order to intimidate journalists,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk. “We urge the Sindh province authorities to investigate this violation of what is a highly symbolic place for press freedom and to punish those responsible. Respect for the rule of law in Pakistan is at stake.”
Witnesses said the plainclothes gunmen arrived in at least six double-cabin vehicles, a police truck and other vehicles. When the club’s president requested an explanation, an officer claimed not to know that it was the press club and said they had come to arrest individuals who were wanted by the authorities.
“The police tried to give the appearance of something simple but the story is much bigger,” RSF was told by a senior club member on condition of anonymity. “You can’t believe that the police officers who carried out this raid did not know where they were. There was a conspiracy.”
Karachi’s journalists met this afternoon to protest against the raid. Founded in 1958 and with around a thousand members, the Karachi Press Club is a place where journalists meet to defend their profession, condemn press freedom violations and violations of human rights in general, and to stage protests.
Pakistan is ranked 139th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2018 World Press Freedom Index.