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PPF and AMARC make appeal for community radio to help flood victims; journalist assaulted in Punjab

In a joint action, the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC) and the Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF) have appealed to the Pakistani government to allow emergency community radio stations to be established in areas that have suffered from the current floods in Pakistan. Meanwhile, violence against journalist is ongoing, including a recent assault on a reporter after he filmed the lynching of two brothers, report PPF, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ). As well, PPF's website was hacked in August.

AMARC and PPF applaud the valuable work being carried out by radio stations in the flood-affected areas. These efforts must be complemented by bridging the information gaps at a local level and among displaced peoples in order to make relief operations highly effective, say the two IFEX members.

AMARC is contributing its knowledge and expertise in setting up emergency broadcasting mechanisms, gathered from working around the world in similar situations of natural disasters, like Haiti and Chile.

In Pakistan, community radio played a critical role in passing on vital humanitarian information after the 2005 earthquake, which killed 73,000 people. PPF and AMARC are urging the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) to permit the press organisations to set up emergency radio stations once again, to help provide relief and rehabilitate those affected by the floods.

"A lack of information and communication above all affects victims who are unprotected and disoriented," said RSF. "Radio can play a key role in establishing contact between survivors and rescue teams."

RSF is appealing to the international community to provide aid to affected journalists. "Dozens of journalists have been hit by the flooding and entire regions such as the Swat valley have been without print media and TV for more than two weeks because of the lack of electricity."

Journalists also continue to face violent reprisals for their work in other parts of the country. Hafiz Muhammad Imran, a reporter from the Dunya News TV channel in Sialkot, Punjab, filmed two brothers being beaten to death by a mob on 15 August as local police watched and did nothing. Imran was then brutally beaten by unidentified persons outside his residence on 29 August. He suffered several fractures and has been hospitalised.

"I did an exclusive report showing the brutality reigning in Sialkot but now I am under threat from those who have been implicated in this case," Imran told RSF. Imran and his family have been receiving death threats from unknown callers; and although police protection has been promised, it has not been given to them.

However, the coverage of the lynching compelled authorities to respond. Seventeen people, including police officers, have been arrested on murder charges.

On 15 August, PPF's website was hacked by the "Indian Cyber Army", which removed the contents of the website, replacing them with the flag of India and warning of "dire consequences." Media reports said some 150 Pakistani websites were hacked prior to the independence days of Pakistan and India on August 14 and 15 respectively.

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