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Interim information minister threatens to shut down broadcasters that break code of conduct

(IFJ/IFEX) - The following is an IFJ media release:

Murder of Journalist In Pakistan Must Be Investigated Promptly

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), an IFJ affiliate, in strongly condemning the murder on February 9 of Chisti Mujahid, a senior journalist with the weekly Akbar-e-Jehan, in Quetta.

It was reported from Quetta, in Balochistan Province, that a gunman shot Mujahid dead as he left his house in the morning. Mujahid was hit by two bullets, the PFUJ said.

The IFJ and the PFUJ call on authorities to investigate the crime immediately and to ensure the culprit or culprits are brought to justice.

"The IFJ is extremely concerned for the safety of journalists in Pakistan and a growing culture of impunity in the country," IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park said. "Authorities must act to arrest those who target and kill journalists, to send a clear message that attacks on journalists will not be tolerated."

The PFUJ said the murder was a targeted killing. It warned that it would maintain pressure for action by the Government, which had failed in the past to arrest the killers of journalists.

Six journalists and media workers were killed in Pakistan in 2007, making it one of the most dangerous places in the world for the profession.

The IFJ also supports the PFUJ in its concerns about a statement by the interim Information Minister, Nisar Memon, in which he was cited on February 5 as warning broadcasters to conform with a code of conduct devised by the Pakistan Electronic and Media Regulation Authority (PEMRA).

Mr Memon was quoted as saying that TV stations that did not follow the PEMRA code could face a similar situation to the broadcast shutdown on November 3, 2007, when President Pervez Musharraf imposed a state of emergency and more than 60 TV channels were taken off air.

The IFJ and the PFUJ call on Mr Memon to withdraw the statement, which highlighted the Government's continuing negative attitude toward freedom of the media and expression ahead of national elections set for February 18.

Both organisations reiterate their demands that the Government revoke anti-media legal amendments made during the state of emergency. The PEMRA code of conduct is deeply flawed because it seeks to impose censorship and restrict the media, they said.

"Authorities must recognise that journalists have a responsibility to inform the public," Ms Park said. "The Government's continuing efforts to restrict the media in Pakistan are not in accord with genuine democratic process but rather are a disservice to the people of Pakistan."

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries.

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