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Journalists under threat from suicide bombs, abductions and censorship

Pakistani journalists continue to be pushed to the edge, by suicide attacks, kidnappings and murder, as well as government officials making direct attacks on critical journalists, reports the Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF). Access to information has also been undermined with state orders to halt BBC Urdu-language broadcasts.

In a joint action spearheaded by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), 26 IFEX members and the Pakistani Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) have called on the leaders of the Taliban, jihadist movements and Al-Qaeda to stop suicide bombings targeting public gatherings, which result in the deaths of innocent civilians and media workers.

Pakistani journalists cover events first-hand, but that does not mean they "support any specific politician or public figure," says the joint action. The bombings have made Pakistan one of the most dangerous countries in the world for the press.

Journalists and their families are also not entirely safe in their own homes. Azaz Syed was out at work when gunmen riddled the front door of his house with bullets early on 7 May, says PPF. An investigative reporter for the English-language private television channel Dawn News, Syed has been working on stories involving the armed forces, intelligence agencies and militant organisations, as well as political parties and influential personalities in Pakistan. This is the second attack on his residence.

Meanwhile, on 27 April, the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) ordered 24 FM radio stations to stop broadcasting BBC Urdu news bulletins because they allegedly violated the terms of their licenses, reports PPF. BBC says it believes the stations have completed all the required paperwork for PEMRA to lift the ban.

In a separate deadly episode in North Waziristan, militants executed a former Pakistani intelligence official who was kidnapped along with documentary filmmaker Asad Qureshi, report the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and the International Press Institute (IPI). The official's body was found on 30 April, after going missing with the filmmaker and a second official on 26 March. Qureshi, a British citizen of Pakistani origin, was on his way to interview Taliban leaders.

More recently, 30-year-old journalist Ghulam Rasool Birhamani was reported missing on 9 May; his body was found the next day with torture marks and fatal head injuries, reports PPF. A reporter for the daily "Sindhu Hyderabad", Birhamani had recently received threats from the Lashari tribe for reporting on the marriage of an underage girl from the tribe.

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