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Journalists flee Swat Valley

Only a few journalists are left in Pakistan's restive Swat Valley to cover the government's military offensive against the Taliban, according to Reporters Without Borders (RSF), as well as news reports on the website of the Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF).

RSF reports that national newspapers are no longer being distributed for safety reasons. Swat residents no longer have access to satellite television since the Taliban damaged the district's only cable distribution network, and journalists are fleeing the area out of fear for their safety.

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.

"It is now impossible to get independently-sourced information about what is happening in Swat Valley," RSF said.

Ghulam Farooq, the editor of the local daily "Shamal", told RSF, "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." According to news reports, Farooq and his family have fled Swat.

Swat Press Club president Salahuddin Khan told reporters that journalists had left the valley. "We are leaving Swat as we are under direct threat from all sides," he said. Khan advised all journalists choosing to stay in Mingora, Swat's main city, to work from home.

RSF is demanding the Pakistani authorities give journalists better protection and permits "that allow them to circulate during curfew hours so that they are able to do their job."

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    (RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders is alarmed by the situation in the Swat valley as the Pakistani armed forces step up their operations against the Taliban there. Newspapers had already stopped publishing after the military imposed a curfew. Now journalists are fleeing to safer areas. On 12 May 2009, the Khyber Union of Journalists urged the government to allow the media access to Mingora, the largest city in the valley.

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