Dont get too close to the truth!

When Hamid Karzai told the Times that Mulla Omar was seen at a mosque in Quetta, Pakistan it was based on the photographs taken by two French reporters.

It looks like these gentlemen got a little too close for Pakistani regime’s comfort. Marc Epstein and Jean-Paul Guilloteau of L’Express magazine have been arrested for visa violations which confined them to travel to only Islamabad and Karachi. By many measures these Frenchmen are lucky, if they had gone further they themselves would have ended up in short films from the Sheikh Omar Saeed school of videography and vivisection.

While Musharraf is praised by the Pakistani press for generally giving the press a free rein, his generosity is not uniformly applied to all issues. Hamid Mir was ousted as the editor of the Weekly Independent newspaper when he covered one expose too many. He then went on to report for The Herald, a magazine of the Dawn group.

On November 22, unidentified persons had set fire to Mir’s car and shots were fired outside his home in Lahore, in the eastern province of Punjab.

Says Mir, now the deputy editor of the Herald, an English-language monthly, “During the past few months, I have been threatened with dire consequences in one-on-one meetings with several senior military and political leaders.”

According to the editor, the authorities had told him General Musharraf was angered by his articles and that he should desist from writing against the general and the army.

The August and November issues of the Herald carried investigative reports by Mir on the presence in Pakistan of a don of an Indian crime syndicate, Dawood Ibrahim.

According to the General, the articles gave weight to the Indian allegation that Pakistan was protecting the don – who is on the run from Indian police.

Hamid Mir is not alone and neither is he the first one to be terrorised by Musharraf’s regime. Shaheen Sehbai of the News daily was forced to escape to the United States when he came close to disclosing details of the Daniel Pearl case, he now runs an online newspaper called the South Asia Tribune (which really seems like one long tirade against his tormentors). The Frontier Post was also forced to shut down and its founder was tortured while in the custody of ‘agencies’. The Hoot has compiled a list of acts of violence and intimidation against journalists just in 2003.

The 2003 Annual Report for Pakistan by the French NGO Reporters Sans Frontiers is out. However it came too early to include the Epstein and Guilloteau incarceration.

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