Washington, Aug 24 (IANS) The US has said that critical opinion should be “encouraged, not silenced” with regard to freedom of the press in a democracy. The comment came in the wake of an attack on a news channel office in Karachi, Pakistan, that left one person dead and several injured.
US State Department spokesperson Mark Toner said on Tuesday: “I would just say in a democratic society, critical opinion should be encouraged, not silenced. We believe democracies become stronger by allowing free expression from diverse voices within society, and we would emphasise that any expression must be peaceful.”
The US statement came in response to a question on freedom of the press in Pakistan, in relation to the attack on the ARY News office in Karachi on Monday by workers of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) protesting “lack of coverage of the party’s hunger strike” at the Press Club.
MQM leaders said they were protesting peacefully at ARY office against biased media coverage when police started firing on peaceful protesters, leading to the death of one and injuries to several others.
Following the attack, Pakistani paramilitary troops have sealed the headquarters of the MQM and arrested five of its top leaders.
Toner earlier said: “We’ve certainly seen the reports about these incidents. Pakistani security forces, I think, have arrested several members of the MQM, the Muttahidi — Muttahida, rather — Qaumi Movement. Some of these members — and also sealed their headquarters. We’re also aware of yesterday’s vandalism of an ARY News office in Karachi. Obviously, the government of Pakistan would be the best source for further information on these events.”
The violence came after MQM’s leader in exile Altaf Hussain lambasted Pakistan as a “cancer for the entire world” and the “epicentre of terrorism”. His speech was broadcast over loudspeakers to a crowd in Karachi from London, from where he has run the party since the early 1990s.