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JOURNALISTS AT RISK IN BORDER REGIONS

Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF), the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and other IFEX members have voiced great concern about the deteriorating security situation in the border area of Pakistan.

Last week, two journalists were shot and wounded in Peshawar, the capital of Pakistan's restive North West Frontier Province, as they were returning from interviewing a Taliban commander in nearby Khyber.

Sami Yousafzai, "Newsweek" magazine's special correspondent in the region and a CBS News stringer, and Yatsukura Motoki, Islamabad bureau chief for the Japanese daily "Asahi Shimbun", are in stable condition. Their driver was also shot.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), it's unclear whether the journalists were attacked for their work or were the targets of a criminal gang seeking ransom.

The North West Frontier Province, as well as the adjoining Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), has been the scene of a number of attacks on journalists, foreigners and government officials in recent weeks.

On 11 November, Khadija Abdul Qahaar, a Canadian freelance journalist and publisher of the website Jihad Unspun, and her Pakistani translator and guide were kidnapped while travelling in the region's Bannu district, say CPJ, PPF and IFJ. PPF says tribal elders are negotiating for Qahaar's and her colleagues' release.

"The Pakistan-Afghanistan border region has long been unstable, but its violence has been steadily spreading into other areas of Pakistan," said CPJ. "Journalists in the region have long warned about the lack of security and the threats they face from all sides - Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters, drug lords, gun runners, criminal gangs, and even the Pakistani government. For journalists, as for all others in Peshawar, this is a situation going from bad to worse."

In a separate incident, Royal TV and daily "Sahafat" reporter Abdul Razzaq Johara was killed in Mianwali, in the Punjab, on 3 November - the day after he did a report on drug trafficking, report PPF, IFJ and Reporters Without Borders (RSF). According to RSF, the local police said they arrested several suspects, although five other suspects remain at large.

In response to a call from IFJ affiliate the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists and the All Pakistan Newspaper Employees Confederation, journalists demonstrated throughout Pakistan on 12 November in protest against the latest killings of their colleagues and to urge the authorities to go after those responsible.

Visit these links:
- PPF: http://www.pakistanpressfoundation.org
- IFJ: http://tinyurl.com/5q3tue
- CPJ: http://tinyurl.com/5ohryy
- RSF: http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=29285
- IFEX Pakistan page: http://tinyurl.com/23z96j
(19 November 2008)

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