Monday, July 21, 2008

Vigilance to Protect Journalists' Safety in Pakistan

PAKISTAN, 9 July 2008
IFJ Calls for Vigilance to Protect Journalists' Safety in Pakistan


The International Federation of Journalists has called for vigilance to protect journalists' safety in Pakistan after the latest alarming spike in abductions of journalists which has ended with the release of Wiqar Kiyani, a journalist working for the Guardian newspaper of the United Kingdom, after his mysterious disappearance on July 6 from his home in Islamabad.
Kiyani's case represents the third in a sequence, which also involved the abduction of the journalists Pir Zubair Shah and Akhtar Soomoro, in the Mohmand agency area of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) in Pakistan.

The IFJ urges the state agencies and insurgent groups to respond positively to the appeals made by the PFUJ and other professional organisations, and to honour the valuable precedent established in these cases, that journalists are non-combatants entitled to equal protection from all sides in a conflict.

"We are worried though, that the culture of hostility and physical violence against media workers is an entrenched fact in Pakistan's more troubled areas", said the IFJ Asia Pacific.

"We call upon the federal and provincial governments in Pakistan to heed the call made by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) that immediate safety measures be instituted for journalists, especially those working in the tribal areas, allowing them to work without fear or intimidation from state agents or non-state actors."

For further information on the Shah and Soomoro case, see:
http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/95243
The information contained in this alert is the sole responsibility of IFJ.
In citing this material for broadcast or publication, please credit IFJ.

14 July 2008
"Guardian" journalist goes missing following raid on home in Islamabad, later released SOURCE: International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), Brussels

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is concerned over the reported disappearance of Wiqar Kiyani, a journalist working for the Guardian newspaper of the United Kingdom, shortly after he returned to Islamabad from a reporting assignment in Karachi.
According to reports received from the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), an IFJ affiliate, Kiyani's home was raided in his absence by unidentified persons. Soon after he returned home, his newspaper informed the PFUJ that he was not responding to telephone calls.
The IFJ learns that the PFUJ has been in contact with Pakistan's Federal Information Minister, Sherry Rahman, who has assured them of assistance in tracing the missing journalist.

"We are deeply distressed at this incident, which has occurred literally within hours of the release of the journalists Pir Zubair Shah and Akhtar Soomoro, after their abduction in the Mohmand agency area of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) in Pakistan", said the IFJ Asia-Pacific.
The IFJ urges the state agencies and insurgent groups to respond positively to the appeals made by the PFUJ and other professional organisations, and to honour the valuable precedent established by the release of the journalists in the FATA.

"We urge that the principle of journalists as non-combatants be respected by all sides in the conflict zones of Pakistan", said the IFJ Asia Pacific.

"At the same time, the safety situation for journalists in the FATA and the frontier provinces of Pakistan remains tenuous and we urge media owners and editors to be mindful of the special needs of journalists assigned in theseareas".

15 July 2008
"Aaj Kal" newspaper, staff threatened by Lal Masjid activists over cartoon of cleric's wife, editorial criticising religious militancy
SOURCE: Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF), Karachi

(PPF/IFEX) - "Aaj Kal", an Urdu-language daily published from Lahore, has been threatened by Islamic activists angered by the publication of a cartoon about Umme Hassaan, wife of Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) cleric Maulana Abdul Aziz, and also an editorial criticizing the religious militancy.
The Lal Masjid, located in Pakistan's capital city of Islamabad, was the centre of a stand-off between the mosque administration and students of the affiliated seminary, who barricaded themselves inside the mosque, and the government. The crisis culminated in a bloody military operation on 7 July 2007, in which scores of people, including male and female students of the seminary and paramilitary personnel, were killed and over one hundred others were injured. The Musharraf government has been widely criticized for highhandedness and scores of students are still missing after the government attack on the mosque.
Umme Hassaan organized the Lal Mosque Martyred Women's Conference in Islamabad on Wednesday, 9 July 2008 in memory of the women killed in the military operation.

According to "Aaj Kal" management, speeches were also made against the newspaper by protestors who had gathered outside Lal Masjid on 11 July.According to Najam Sethi, Editor-in-Chief of "Aaj Kal", protestors raised banners with slogans against the daily, its editor-in-chief and publisher.They accused the newspaper of being anti-jihad and threatened to "teach them a lesson", he added. The newspaper's staff also received threatening telephone calls in Lahore and Islamabad.
The newspaper had recently published a cartoon depicting Umme Hassaan instructing female students on how to nab "immoral women". The newspaper had also published an editorial against religious terrorism and militancy in Pakistan.
The threats against "Aaj Kal" have been widely condemned by media organizations. The Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors (CPNE) condemned the attempts by non-state elements to take the law into their own hands and issue threats designed to silence the daily for its outspoken views on rising extremism in the country. Arif Nizami, President of the CPNE, said, "We see this as an attack on the freedom of the press and condemn it
strongly."
The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), in a statement issued on 12 July, termed the threats to "Aaj Kal" an attempt to silence dissent and expressed concern over the rising trend of violence from non-state actors against media personnel.

The PFUJ reminded clerics of Lal Mosque that one photojournalist, Javed Khan, died while covering the military operation, while another journalist was still under treatment and fighting for his life.
The PFUJ said that the media gave full coverage to the events last year and again on its first anniversary. "We expect them to behave honourably if any newspaper or channel criticizes their politics in its editorials. They also have a right to protest if 'Aaj Kal' or any other newspaper or channel does not give them due coverage. But they should respect the dissenting voice," the statement said.

In a statement, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has also expressed concerns over the threats to the newspaper. The statement said: "The HRCP believes that it is the obligation of the government to protect its citizens and particularly the media from being browbeaten." Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Sherry Rehman also condemned the threatening phone calls and messages. Ms. Rehman assured the publication that the government would provide complete protection to "Aaj Kal" offices.
For further information on the Khan case, see:
http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/84584

For further information, contact Owais Aslam Ali at PPF, Press Centre, Shahrah Kamal Ataturk, Karachi 74200, Pakistan, tel: +92 21 263 3215, fax: +92 21 263 1275, e-mail: foe@pakistanpressfoundation.org , Internet: http://www.pakistanpressfoundation.org
For further information, contact IFJ Asia-Pacific, tel: +612 9333 0919, or the IFJ, International Press Centre, Residence Palace, Block C, 155 Rue de la Loi, B-1040 Brussels, Belgium, tel: +322 235 2200 / 2207, fax: +322 235 2219, e-mail: rachel.cohen@ifj.org, Internet: http://www.ifj.org /
The information contained in this alert is the sole responsibility of PPF.
In citing this material for broadcast or publication, please credit PPF.
http://www.groundreport.com/World/Pakistan-s-only-moderate-Urdu-newspaper-faces-thre

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