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DATE=5/10/99 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT NUMBER=2-249193 TITLE=U-S / PAK PRESS REACT (L-ONLY) BYLINE=SCOTT ANGER DATELINE=ISLAMABAD CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: THE UNITED STATES HAS CONDEMNED PAKISTAN OVER THE RECENT CRACKDOWN ON JOURNALISTS CRITICAL OF THE GOVERNMENT. AS CORRESPONDENT SCOTT ANGER REPORTS FROM ISLAMABAD, WASHINGTON IS CALLING FOR THE RELEASE OF TWO JOURNALISTS BEING HELD WITHOUT FORMAL CHARGES BY THE PAKISTANI GOVERNMENT. TEXT: IN A WRITTEN STATEMENT, THE STATE DEPARTMENT SAYS THE RECENT CRACKDOWN ON JOURNALISTS IN PAKISTAN IS UNACCEPTABLE, AND RAISES SERIOUS DOUBTS ABOUT THE COMMITMENT OF THE GOVERNMENT TO FREEDOM OF THE PRESS AND THE RULE OF LAW. THE U-S GOVERNMENT SAYS DURING THE PAST TWO-WEEKS, JOURNALISTS HAVE BEEN MISTREATED, THREATENED, AND ARRESTED ON TRUMPED-UP CHARGES. ONE OF THOSE UNDER ARREST IS PROMINENT NEWSPAPER EDITOR NAJAM SETHI, A SHARP CRITIC OF PRIME MINISTER NAWAZ SHARIF'S GOVERNMENT. HIS NEWSPAPER "THE FRIDAY TIMES" HAS PUBLISHED ARTICLES ACCUSING GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS OF CORRUPT PRACTICES, SUCH AS TAX EVASION AND DEFAULTS ON LOANS WORTH MILLIONS OF DOLLARS. SPOKESMAN FOR THE U-S EMBASSY IN ISLAMABAD LEE JAMES IRWIN SAYS THE EDITOR SHOULD BE RELEASED IMMEDIATELY. /// IRWIN ACT /// THE IMMEDIATE CONCERN IS THAT NAJAM SETHI BE RELEASED -- AS WELL AS OTHER WHO ARE BEING HELD -- AND TO TERMINATE THE CRACKDOWN IN GENERAL. /// END ACT /// PAKISTAN'S GOVERNMENT HAS ACCUSED MR. SETHI OF HAVING LINKS WITH INDIAN INTELLIGENCE AGENTS. BUT HIS WIFE, A FELLOW JOURNALIST, SAYS HE WAS ARRESTED FOR GIVING AN INTERVIEW TO THE "BRITISH BROADCASTING CORPORATION" FOR A FILM DOCUMENTARY PROFILING ALLEGED CORRUPTION BY PRIME MINISTER SHARIF AND HIS RELATIVES. THE EDITOR'S ARREST FOLLOWS A SERIES OF INCIDENTS OF HARASSMENT AGAINST JOURNALISTS CRITICAL OF THE GOVERNMENT. ANOTHER "FRIDAY TIMES" WRITER, HUSSAIN HAQQANI, DISAPPEARED FOR MORE THAN 24-HOURS LAST WEEK BEFORE GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS ACKNOWLEDGED HIS ARREST. NO FORMAL CHARGES HAVE BEEN BROUGHT AGAINST MR. HAQQANI AND NO ONE OUTSIDE THE GOVERNMENT HAS SEEN HIM SINCE THE ARREST. OTHER JOURNALISTS HAVE HAD CARS BURNED AND BEEN DETAINED BY INTELLIGENCE AGENTS. THE UNITED STATES SAYS IT WILL CONTINUE TO MONITOR THE SITUATION CLOSELY -- AND THE NEW-YORK BASED "COMMITTEE TO PROTECT JOURNALISTS", WHICH HAS WRITTEN A LETTER OF PROTEST TO PRIME MINISTER SHARIF, SAYS IT IS PLANNING TO LODGE ANOTHER PROTEST SOON. (SIGNED) NEB/SA/RAE 10-May-99 2:09 PM EDT (1809 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .





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