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RSF condemns recent escalation in violence against journalists

(RSF/IFEX) - 29 July 2010 - Reporters Without Borders condemns an escalation in violence against journalists in the past few weeks including three murder attempts (two in Bajaur, in the Tribal Areas, and one in Hyderabad) and a severe beating in Hyderabad.

"Aside from the duty of the security forces to protect journalists, it is vital that armed groups, especially the Taliban insurgents, put an immediate stop to their threats and attacks on the media. The influence of Pakistan's TV stations is such that their provincial correspondents have become favourite targets. TV station owners must quickly find ways to give their employees better protection."

The home of Din News TV reporter Imran Khan in Bajaur was the target of a Taliban grenade attack on 7 July that injured eight members of his family including his mother. Khan himself is living in a secret location for security reasons. It was the second attack against him. He and his sister were hospitalised a few days earlier following a kidnap attempt in April.

Khan's father, Muhammad Ibrahim, who was also a journalist, was fatally shot on 22 May 2008 as he was returning home from interviewing a local Taliban chief.

Aged 24, Khan told Reporters Without Borders: "The Taliban have repeatedly threatened me, telling me I will be eliminated. This attack was not a surprise and I am steadily losing hope that I will survive these threats. I can envisage moving to Afghanistan because I have no way of protecting myself and my family here."

Sarfraz Wistro, the chief reporter of the "Daily Ibrat" newspaper, was attacked and beaten unconscious by five men at about 2:00 a.m. on 22 July near his home in Hyderabad, in the southeastern province of Sindh. Although they took his mobile phone and 12,000 rupees (140 dollars) in cash, Wistro is convinced the attack was linked to his work as a journalist.

Three days later, gunmen opened fire on a Geo News vehicle at Hyderabad, hitting reporter Anwar Kamal in the left arm. "The five gunmen fired on our vehicle from both sides of the street," Kamal told Reporters Without Borders. "No group has claimed responsibility for the attack but it could have come from people who don't like our reports. We are seeing a dangerous trend for journalists to be directly targeted."

Relations between privately-owned Geo News and the central government have deteriorated as a result of the station's coverage of alleged corruption involving President Asif Ali Zardari. Representatives of the Sindh provincial government visited Kamal in hospital and promised to "pursue the assailants."

The home of journalist Zafarullah Banori in Bajaur was the target of a grenade attack on 26 July but Banori, who works for ARY One World TV and Al Jazeera, was not there, having recently moved to Peshawar because he felt he was in danger due to his journalistic work.

Deewa Radio reporter Irfanullah Jan and print media journalist Anwarullah Khan received threatening letters from the Taliban last month. The letters wanted them to "take care in their work" and added that there would be "strict actions" if they did not "behave".

Pakistan currently ranks with Mexico as the world's two most dangerous countries for journalists. Taliban leader Mollah Mohammad Omar is on the 2010 Reporters Without Borders list of Predators of Press Freedom.

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