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Pervez faces flak on press freedom

Islamabad, Dec. 3 (Reuters): New-York based Human Rights Watch has accused Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf of muzzling the press by allowing journalists to be threatened or harassed for criticising the army.

In a letter to Musharraf, the rights group expressed concern about reports that magazine journalist Amir Mia had been threatened and his car set ablaze by intelligence agents after he wrote stories critical of the armed forces. The group said another journalist had been arrested in August on a “baseless claim” of sedition for allegedly distributing a photograph showing soldiers beating a crowd of young people.

“We urge you to demonstrate a commitment to genuine press freedom by releasing journalists arrested on trumped-up charges,” the group said.

Information minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed denied journalists were harassed and said he was unaware of what had happened to Mir, who works for English-language monthly The Herald.

“I think the freedom that journalists enjoy in Pakistan is not matched in any other country of the region,” Ahmed said. “They can write whatever they want to write.”

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