Journalist booked in extortion case after covering eviction of ‘displaced persons’

The Second Additional Judicial Magistrate and Civil Judge of Ghotki, Mohammad Ashraf Dehraj, on Monday adjourned the hearing of an alleged extortion case against a journalist until Sept 19.

Nasrullah Gaddani, a reporter associated with daily Awami Awaz and senior vice president of the Mirpur Mathelo Press Club was booked vide FIR No. 182/22 at the Ghotki police station following an altercation between him and a police team, sent to a relief camp to force some families out of it, on September 6.

Mr Gaddani, who did not appear in court on Monday, told Dawn he was not aware of the date for the hearing.

He told Dawn that flood-hit families, some belonging to the Hindu community, had taken shelter at the camp. However, police contended that they were nomads and professional beggars and wanted to expel them from the camp.

Mr Gaddani said that amid the altercation, he contacted the Ghotki deputy commissioner, who had given the police the order to evict the families from the camp, located near Cantt Station in Mirpur Mathelo.

The journalist said he stayed on and covered the event for his newspaper.

On the morning of September 7, he was arrested in a raid on his house and produced before the judge, who remanded him in police custody for five days.

However, sources said that Mr Gaddani had submitted an apology over his conduct on Sept 8 and was eventually released on the judge’s orders.

For their part, police claimed that Mr Gaddani was arrested on allegations of extortion. The investigation officer of the case, Peer Bux Bhutto, contended that Mr Gaddani was released “because we did not have any proof available to us by that time (Sept 8)”.

However, he added, the matter was under investigation and a charge sheet would be filed before Monday’s hearing. However, on Monday, Mr Gaddani said he was informed by court sources that the police would submit the charge sheet later and that he was supposed to appear in court on Sept 19.

Sources said that the journalist’s lawyer had sought the quashment of the FIR registered against him in C-class.

“I have been told that an order on my case will also be announced on the same date (Sept 19),” said Mr Gaddani.

Awami Awaz regional editor Iqbal Mallah described the act of implicating Mr Gaddani in a fake extortion case as “unacceptable”. He was quoted as saying that “Nasrullah is doing bold and truthful reporting for Hindu minority community,” and condemned that he was arrested from his residence as if he was a criminal.

He said all unions of journalists should raise their voice over this matter for protection of journalists.

Source: Dawn

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