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OFFICIALS PROMISE TO REVIEW JOURNALIST MURDERS

A Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) delegation has won pledges from Pakistani officials to review government investigations into the deaths of seven journalists who have been killed for their work in the past four years, and to examine official records of 20 other cases of attacks on journalists.

Following meetings with Pakistan's Interior Minister, Secretary of the Interior and Northwest Frontier Governor last week, CPJ said the promises were a good first step in ensuring that "journalists in the country can cover sensitive issues without fearing for their lives." The officials also pledged to establish a continuing dialogue with Pakistani journalist organizations and to assure them of government support for journalists' safety.

CPJ has recorded eight journalists killed in the line of duty since 2002, including U.S. reporter Daniel Pearl. Only Pearl's case has been thoroughly investigated.

Journalists in Pakistan have faced increasing threats and attacks in recent months, notes CPJ. Two journalists - Hayatullah Khan and Munir Ahmed Sangi - have been found dead since May. Two television journalists - Geo TV correspondent Mukesh Rupeta and freelance cameraman Sanjay Kumar - were held incommunicado for more than three months by the government before being charged under the Official Secrets Act and released on 22 June. Authorities have told Pakistani journalists that they do not know the whereabouts of another journalist, "Daily Kawish" correspondent Mehruddin Mari, despite the fact that he was reportedly detained by police in Sindh province on 2 July.

Members of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists and the Tribal Union of Journalists told the CPJ delegation that they are often threatened by the groups they cover and that they fear retribution from the government, including illegal detentions and harassment. Many journalists also spoke of the lack of support from their news organisations, saying the outlets are reluctant to confront the government when their reporters are arrested or detained.

CPJ has urged the Pakistani government to take steps to better protect press freedom, including the creation of a special unit in the Interior Ministry to investigate crimes against journalists and make reports available to the public. CPJ also recommended that similar mechanisms be established in Pakistan's tribal territories.

According to a report by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), journalists in the conflict-ridden tribal areas of the Northwest Frontier and Baluchistan often work under very dangerous conditions because of clashes between militants and armed forces.

Visit these links:
- CPJ: http://www.cpj.org/news/2006/asia/pak26july06na.html
- RSF: http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=18260
- IFJ Report: http://childrights.ifj-asia.org/report/sapfr_200506.pdf
- Pakistan Press Foundation: http://www.pakistanpressfoundation.org/
- IFEX Alerts on Pakistan: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/158/
- Internews Pakistan: http://www.intermedia.org.pk/

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