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Bomb blast injures five journalists as tensions rise in lead-up to national elections

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

Bomb Blast Injures Five Journalists as Tensions Rise in Pakistan

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) urges the Government and President of Pakistan to step up security measures immediately after five journalists were critically injured in a bomb blast in Khuzdar on February 12 as tensions rise in the lead-up to the country's national elections on February 18.

The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), an IFJ affiliate, reported that the blast occurred near the office of independent electoral candidate Aslam Bizenjo, in the Khuzdar district of Balochistan Province, as he was about to hold a press conference.

Several people were reported injured, including five journalists. Two journalists are in a critical condition.

The PFUJ said the five injured journalists are Ayub Baluch, of GEO-TV; Munir Noor, of Rang TV; Abdullah, of KTN; and stringers Latif Baluch and Munir Shakir.

The IFJ joins the PFUJ in condemning the attack, which endangered the lives of journalists and civilians in an effort to disrupt Pakistan's already controversial election process.

"In a highly charged and volatile situation as at present, journalists, photojournalists and cameramen must take extra safety measures. We appeal to media owners to provide them with bullet-proof jackets and get them fully insured," the PFUJ said.

The PFUJ and the IFJ are increasingly concerned about growing threats to journalists' personal safety, following the murder of senior Akbar-e-Jehan journalist Chishti Mujahid, who was gunned down in Quetta on February 9. A militant group, the Baluchistan Liberation Army (BLA), has claimed responsibility for the murder.

"The rising trend of violence against journalists and media workers in Pakistan, whether it be targeted or not, must stop immediately," said IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park.

"The people of Pakistan must know what is happening in their country, especially in the lead-up to the national elections. President Pervez Musharraf and the caretaker government must ensure that journalists are able to fulfill their duty to inform the public without fear for their lives."

In 2007, six journalists were killed and more than 70 were injured in Pakistan. The IFJ said the country was one of the most dangerous places for a journalist to work, after Iraq.

So far in 2008, the PFUJ reports 10 journalists have been arrested under anti-terrorism laws while 34 cases have been registered of journalists receiving threats to prevent them conducting their work.

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

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