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ABDUCTED JOURNALIST KILLED IN AIR RAID

A local journalist held captive by the Taliban was killed in an air strike on militant hideouts in the Swat valley in Pakistan last week, report the Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF) and other IFEX members.

Abdul Aziz Shaheen, a journalist for the local dailies "Azadi" and "Khabarkar" in Swat, North West Frontier Province, was among 25 people killed on 29 August in an air strike by government forces on a Taliban hideout, where he was being held captive.

According to PPF, Shaheen had gone to Swat to investigate who was responsible for setting his car on fire a week earlier. The Taliban kidnapped Shaheen and put him in a private Taliban jail on 27 August, PPF says, because they were angered by reports he had written about their activities.

The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) says the government has not been taking the issue of journalists' safety seriously, especially in the tribal areas. Journalists have been getting death threats and some have even received warning letters to leave the area.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) says that dangers for journalists are growing in Swat, as well as the adjoining Tribal Areas of Bajaur and North Waziristan. As a result of a recent military offensive in Bajaur, almost all local journalists, along with tens of thousands of civilians, have left the area to escape the fighting. Journalists working for news agencies and foreign media have been banned from North Waziristan since 26 August, reports RSF.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) backs PFUJ's rejection of calls from Pakistan Information Minister Sherry Rahman for media to not report statements of outlawed bodies. "Media are not there to glorify so-called militants or others, but to report honestly about the situation on the ground," says IFJ. "Pakistani journalists, like their colleagues around the world, must be free to report on the activities of groups like Al-Qaeda. The people have a right to know what is going on and any form of censorship will only make matters worse."

Visit these links:
- PPF: http://tinyurl.com/64yxd6
- IFJ: http://tinyurl.com/6hrudy
- RSF: http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=28369
- PFUJ: http://tinyurl.com/6zbbxg
(3 September 2008)

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