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Media in danger in Swat Valley

(RSF/IFEX) - 6 May 2009 - Reporters Without Borders deplores the deterioration in the media situation in the Swat valley since the military launched an offensive against the Taliban. The valley has been plunged into chaos, fighting is raging, the population is fleeing, and the media are all paralysed.

Local newspapers have stopped publishing for safety reasons. National newspapers are no longer being distributed. Cable television is not working. The authorities have introduced a curfew in Swat and neighbouring districts in a bid to stop the Taliban from reinforcing their positions in the region.

"Over the months, Swat had already become an area where rights were not respected, but the situation has become much worse since newspapers stopped appearing and cable television stopped working," Reporters Without Borders said. "We urge the Pakistani authorities to give journalists better protection and to issue permits that allow them to circulate during curfew hours so that they are able to do their job."

The press freedom organisation added: "Newspapers must resume publishing without delay. The population of both the Swat valley and the rest of the country must be able to follow what is happening in the Swat valley."
Ghulam Farooq, the editor of the daily "Shamal", told Reporters Without Borders: "All the newspapers based in Swat have stopped publishing for security reasons, because the situation is extremely dangerous. What's more, the curfew makes it impossible for our staff to move about."

Rashid Iqbal, the editor of the daily "Chand", said he had not been sending any newspapers to Swat for the past two days. "We are no longer sending newspapers to Swat and we do not know when we will be able to resume distribution," he told Reporters Without Borders.

Swat's inhabitants no longer have access to satellite television since the Taliban damaged the district's only cable distribution network.

"There are no newspapers and no TV stations to find out what is going on around us," a Swat-based lawyer said. "It is as if we were living in the Stone Age. There is no news, no access to information."

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