ISLAMABAD: Clerics at a mosque in Islamabad thrashed the crew of a private television channel and broke their camera on Tuesday after a member of the team allegedly drank water while he was in the mosque.
The clerics have since been booked by the police.
Staffers of the private channel told The Express Tribune that they had gone to cover an event in F-8 when their cameraman Rashid Azeem went to Haqqania Masjid to offer Zuhr prayers. The mosque is built on the green belt on Faisal Avenue near Faisal Masjid.
Rashid said he was performing ablution when a cleric at the mosque approached him and questioned why he was drinking water and not fasting. According to Rashid, the two got into a spat and his co-workers came to the mosque. He said when they took out their cameras to record outside the mosque, its clerics and students became angry and beat up Rashid and smashed the crew’s camera.
The clerics also allegedly forcibly prevented other reporters from recording footage of the scene. The Express Tribune’s reporter was also threatened with violence for recording and photographing the altercation.
According to eyewitnesses, the clerics also took photos of all the TV channel’s staffers and threw stones at their DSNG van.
The crew had to take refuge in the nearby Margalla Police Station and filed a complaint with the police.
Later, two clerics from the mosque approached the police station and told officers that the altercation had occurred after they tried to stop the news crew from drinking water during Ramazan’s fasting hours. They also admitted to breaking the camera.
“They were not observing fast and I tried to stop them,” head cleric Israrullah told Margalla SHO Ilyas Mekin. “Their driver started arguing with me,” he added.
Israr said he then left for the market and the crew went to pray, but afterwards, they began recording outside the mosque.
“When my brother stopped them, they manhandled him and started beating him. When I saw this I took their camera and smashed it,” he added.
The newsmen, however, claim that none of them drank water and even if someone did, the clerics had no right to beat them and break their equipment.
Both sides registered complaints with the police against each other, while cameraman Rashid, who was allegedly beaten, was sent by the police to PIMS for a medical examination.
Officials told The Express Tribune that people from both sides could be booked: the clerics for assaulting the media team and the TV crew for violating the Ramazan sanctity law – the Ehteram-e-Ramazan Ordinance, which carries a Rs500 fine and three-month imprisonment.
The police registered an FIR on the TV’s crew’s complaint and booked “eight to 10 unidentified persons” for issuing threats, property damage, and wrongful confinement. However, no arrests had been made till the filing of this report.
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