Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is calling on the United Kingdom to formally charge London-based political leader Altaf Hussain with instigating an attack against Pakistani broadcast network ARY News and the Karachi Press Club.
An August 22nd raid left reporters and cameramen from Samaa TV, Neo TV, Channel 24, ARY News, Dunya News and 92 News with minor injuries. Hussain’s supporters threw rocks, fired guns, and destroyed the television stations in Karachi.
Hussain is a firebrand leader of the the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, or MQM, a secular political party in Pakistan, which primarily consists of Indian Muslims who speak Urdu. He has lived in London for the past two decades, having fled in self-imposed exile and acquired British citizenship.
RSF claims that Hussain enticed his followers over a telephone call to attack the television station. Since last year, a high court order in Pakistan prohibits Pakistani media from broadcasting live coverage of Hussain’s speeches or publishing his photo.
Top MQM leader Farooq Sattar, detained after the attack, distanced himself from Hussain. In turn, Hussain drafted an apology letter to the Pakistani government:
“From the depth of [my] heart, I beg pardon from the Pakistani establishment,” he said. “I was under severe mental stress over extra-judicial arrests and [the] precarious condition of my workers sitting at [a] hunger striking camp.”
Benjamin Ismaïl of RSF’s Asia-Pacific bureau made the following statement:
“By directly inciting physical attacks on journalists, this politician committed a crime that the British authorities cannot ignore, even if the violence did not take place in the United Kingdom. The British government has an opportunity to directly contribute to the fight against crimes of violence against journalists.”
Reporters Without Borders, also known by its French name Reporters Sans Frontières or RSF, is an international non-profit organization that fights for press freedom and for the right to share one’s voice with the world, which they consider is a human right.
Reporters Without Borders ranks Pakistan’s press freedom 147th out of 180 countries, and Freedom House gives Pakistan failing marks for their press and internet freedom.