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Military officer in tribal areas threatens journalist with kidnapping, death

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders has voiced grave concern about the safety of Sailab Mehsud, working for the newspaper "The News" and for Al-Jazeera in Dera Ismail Kahn, south of Peshawar, after a Pakistani military intelligence officer insulted him and threatened him with death.

Mehsud, who is also editor of the regional news website "Karwan-e-Qabial" ( http://www.karwan-e-qabial.net ) and formerly chaired the Tribal Union of Journalists (TUJ), was threatened in connection with his reporting on a clash the previous evening between the army and the Taliban in the tribal area of South Waziristan.

"We call on the new head of the Pakistani Army, General Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani, to order an investigation into this serious incident, which threatens the life and work of this journalist who has committed himself to reporting on the situation in the tribal areas," Reporters Without Borders said.

"It is vital that the person who made these threats and insults should be punished. We express our complete solidarity with Sailab Mehsud", the organisation added.

Mehsud told the worldwide press freedom organisation that a Military Intelligence (MI) officer based in Dera Ismail Kahn called him on his mobile phone on 30 September 2007 and threatened him with abduction.

"He introduced himself as a member of Military Intelligence based at Dera Ismail Khan, insulted me and said I would disappear and that future generations would never find me. Then he insulted my mother", he said. "I was completely demoralised after this incident. No one has ever spoken about my mother, who is very dear to me, in such terms before."

"I spoke to the military spokesman about it, who told me to send him a written complaint. The MI should be held responsible if anything happens to me," Mehsud added.

Another journalist originally from the tribal areas, Hayatullah Khan, correspondent for the Pakistani dailies "Nation" and "Ausaf" and a photographer for the European Press Photo Agency (EPA), was kidnapped in December 2005 and murdered in circumstances which have never been fully elucidated. Despite three official reports, the authorities have never seriously attempted to identify and try those responsible (see IFEX alerts of 26, 25 and 13 September, 20 and 16 June 2006, and others).

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