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Pakistani Court Sentences 2 French Journalists - 2004-01-10

A Pakistan court has sentenced two French journalists to six months in prison for traveling to the Afghan border without permission, but the sentence was suspended pending an appeal.

Police arrested Marc Epstein and Jean-Paul Guilloteau last month after they visited the sensitive border town of Quetta. A local journalist aiding the two men was also arrested and is still in custody awaiting charges.

The reporters visited the area to film a secret military camp reportedly used by Afghan militants hiding in Pakistan. Allegations later surfaced that the camp was a fake, set up to fool the journalists.

Vincent Broseel, Asia-Pacific director for the press advocacy group Reporters Without Borders, says the arrests are a form of Pakistani government censorship.

"If these three journalists stay in jail, it will be impossible to cover independently what is happening at the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan," he said.

The six-month jail sentences have been suspended pending an appeal. The two paid a fine equivalent to $1,750.