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Journalists get serious threats, two TV stations' transmissions disrupted

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

Pakistan Media Environment Worsens Amid Threats and TV Disruptions

The deteriorating safety situation for journalists and defenders of press freedom in Pakistan has been further underscored as journalists in Quetta received serious threats and the transmission of two private television channels was disrupted without explanation this week.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joined its affiliate, the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), in expressing deep concern about an increasing and concerted attack on press freedom and media rights across several provinces.

On November 16, the Daily Times and Aaj Kal newspapers reported their bureau in Quetta, Balochistan, had received a threatening letter attributed to the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA). The newspaper group was warned to "prepare for the worst". The letter said editors and journalists were being targeted for not giving "deserving coverage" to the "Baloch Liberation movement".

The threat is being taken very seriously after the murder of Quetta-based journalist Chishti Mujahid by the BLA on February 9, 2008. It was the first time in Pakistan that an organised armed group had claimed responsibility for the murder of a journalist.

On November 17, transmission of GEO and ARYOne World television stations was blocked for six hours in much of Karachi and Sindh province.

The provincial and federal governments and the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulation Authority (PEMRA) deny ordering the channels be taken off air, the PFUJ said.

Federal Information Minister Sherry Rehman said the matter would be investigated by PEMRA and the Federal Investigation Agency.

The disruption came as the Sindh provincial government banned two publications, the daily Islam and the weekly Zarb-e-Momin, for allegedly spreading "anti-state feelings".

"The IFJ recognises the great difficulties confronting Pakistan's governments at all levels, but calls on authorities to take strong action to defend the integrity of press freedom in Pakistan against efforts to warp media independence and to abuse the rights of journalists who seek to report professionally and impartially in the public interest," IFJ Asia-Pacific said.

Meanwhile, security forces reportedly opened fire on journalists reporting on a military operation in Shabqadar Tehsile, Charsadda District, North West Frontier Province on November 16. No casualties were reported.

These latest incidents follow the killings of two journalists in November. On November 3, Royal TV reporter Abdul Razzak Johra was murdered in Punjab province, apparently in connection to his reporting on drug crimes. On November 8, Qari Mohammad Shoaib, a newspaper reporter, was shot dead by security forces in Swat valley.

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

For further information on the Mujahid case, see: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/90642

For further information on the daily "Islam" and the weekly "Zarb-e-Momin" cases, see: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/98597

For further information on the Johra case, see: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/98441

For further information on the Shoaib case, see: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/98364

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