Extremists warn Pakistani press club, saying Christian journalists spread their faith

(Photo: REUTERS / Akhtar Soomro)Asif Hassan, a photographer with French news agency Agence France-Presse (AFP), sits in a police vehicle after being shot in his chest during a protest organized by Islami Jamiat-e-Talaba, the student wing of religious political party Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), against the satirical French weekly Charlie Hebdo, which featured a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammad as the cover of its first edition since an attack by Islamist gunmen, in Karachi January 16, 2015. Pakistan police fired tear gas and water cannon at about 200 protesters outside the French consulate in the southern port city of Karachi on Friday when a demonstration against the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo turned violent. "AFP photographer Asif Hasan suffered wounds resulting from gunshots fired by ... protesters, police have not opened fire," Abdul Khalique Shaikh, a senior police officer in southern Karachi, told Reuters.

An extremist group in a restive Pakistan province has threatened a local press club, saying that it must eject from its ranks four Christian journalists whom it accused of proselytizing using a television station.

Based in Baluchistan province, the Quetta Press Club said it received a letter from a little-known group called Fidayan-e-Islam.

It accused four Christian journalists of preaching their faith through a broadcasting outlet. The group sent the letter over the weekend, but did not mention which television channel the journalists purportedly uses to preach.

"You call yourself faithful Muslims, while under your watch Christian journalists are working against Islam," read the letter, written in the native Urdu, Ucannews.com reported.

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The letter identified the four Christian journalists, who work as photographers, accusing them of converting one Muslim youth.

The Islamic group warned that should the press club fail to eject the Christian journalists from its ranks, it would initiate "action" against them.

Two of the journalists told ucannews.com that their names had been mentioned in the militant's letter, but they flatly denied using their profession as a means to propagate Christianity in the province.

"There is no truth in what has been claimed in the letter," said one of the Christian journalists mentioned in the letter.

Abdul Khalid Rind, the press club's general secretary, said local police have been notified about the incident and authorities promised to launch an investigation.

A journalist group condemned the threat the Quetta Press Club received, saying the incident merely showed how press freedom in Baluchistan continues to worsen.

"Baluchistan has become the most dangerous province for working journalists in Pakistan. Forty journalists have been killed in acts of violence during the last 10 years," said Irfan Saeed, president of the Baluchistan Union of Journalists, in an interview with ucanews.com.

About 96 percent of Pakistan's 196 million people are Muslims, most of them Sunnis, just under four percent belong to minority religions such as Christianity and Hinduism.

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