Pakistani journalists receive bullets threat

ISLAMABAD, May 30 (Reuters) - Three Pakistani journalists working for foreign news organisations in Karachi found bullets placed in their cars in what a local media body described on Wednesday as an attempt to intimidate the press into silence.

"It is very threatening. This is a serious issue. It is an attempt to gag the press, but we will not compromise on our objectivity," Mazhar Abbas, secretary-general of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists, told Reuters.

Karachi has been tense since May 12, when nearly 40 people were killed in clashes between rival political groups, that disrupted a visit to the city by suspended chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry.

Chaudhry is at the centre of a crisis that has gripped Pakistan since President Pervez Musharraf tried to sack him in March.

Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), the party controlling Pakistan's biggest city and an ally of Musharraf's and member of the coalition, has denied accusations that its workers played a big part in the Karachi bloodshed.

Last week, a shadowy group associated with MQM issued a list of a dozen journalists, terming them "enemies".

Two of the journalists who received bullets were on the list.

An envelope containing a bullet was taped to the windscreens of vehicles belonging two journalists, while a similar envelope was thrown inside the car of a third late on Tuesday.

Karachi police chief Azhar Farooqi said investigations were underway.

Pakistani media has flourished and many new television channels have opened up since Musharraf seized power in a bloodless military coup 7-½ years ago.

However, media groups say there has been a growing pressure on the media since the judicial crisis erupted. Television stations have been attacked and journalists have been threatened for covering countrywide protests by lawyers and opposition groups.

"Threats against journalists are mounting in Pakistan and the government must take immediate steps not only to protect journalists, but to actively seek out and bring to justice those who would harm them," Bob Dietz, the Committee to Protect Journalists Asia programme coordinator, said in a statement last week.

MQM denounced threats to journalists, though the list was circulated by Mohajir Rabita Council, a group linked to the party representing Urdu speakers who migrated to Pakistan from northern India during partition of the Sub-Continent 60 years ago.

"These threats are aimed at creating a rift between journalists and MQM," Farooq Sattar, parliamentary leader of MQM, told Reuters.