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Six journalists killed in Pakistan in 2013, says PPF report

At least six journalists have been killed in the line of duty in Pakistan during the first four months of 2013. Two of them were purposely targeted and murdered because of their work while the remaining four were killed in suicide blasts. This was stated in a Press Freedom Report by the Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF).

The report was released on Friday 3 May 2013, in connection with World Press Freedom Day. It said that 54 journalists were killed in the country during the period of Jan 2002 to Apr 2013. 35 of them were murdered deliberately because of their work, disclosed the Press Freedom Report. Of the 54 journalists killed in the line of duty during these 12 years, 15 were from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 10 from Federally Administrated Tribal Agencies (FATA), 16 from Balochistan, 8 from Sindh, 3 from Punjab and 2 from the federal capital, said the report.

Of the 35 journalists murdered since the year 2002 because of their work, 10 were from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 10 from Balochistan, five from FATA, six from Sindh, three from Punjab and one from Islamabad. Twenty of them were shot; six targeted in suicide attacks, and one killed in a bomb blast, while eight abducted before they were murdered, according to the report.

Balochistan remained the most dangerous province for journalists in 2013, where four journalists were killed in the line of duty. Many journalists received direct life threats sometimes by security agencies and militants. Cable operators were also forced to shut down channels in 14 districts of Balochistan after receiving threats from banned groups.

At least eight journalists were injured in various incidents. Three were hurt in blasts in Quetta, while three others were beaten by militants in Swat district of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province and another two were beaten by police officials in Karachi and Jacobabad, cities of Sindh province, while they were trying to report on some incidents.

In Sindh, the workers of Jeay Sindh Muttahida Mahaz (JSMM) set fire to copies of the leading English-Language newspaper daily Dawn in Hyderabad, Jamshoro, Dadu, Hala and Benazirabad cities and barred the hawkers from distributing copies of the paper. They claimed that news coverage of JSMM's Sindh-wide protest on various issues was being neglected by the paper.

In a separate incident in Karachi, some unidentified men entered the bureau office of the Urdu-Language newspaper daily Tawar and burned records and archives before leaving the place.

About 14 shops selling music CDs and cell-phones were blown up in 2013 in tribal areas of Pakistan, including Bannu, Hangu, Nowshehra and Peshawar, the capital city of Khyber-Pakhtunkhuwa province, by the militants.

The government imposed a ban on a TV channel over defamatory remarks against the Chief of Army Staff by a guest on a talk show. In Balochistan, cable operators were threatened from time to time, either by banned groups or the security agencies over not airing the content of their demands. The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting wrote a letter to the media representative bodies and Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) asking private media to avoid carrying statements by banned outfits. The city Police on the orders of the provincial High Court has registered a case under the anti-terrorism act against journalists from four leading Urdu-Language newspapers, Jang, Intikhab, Express and Mashriq in Quetta.

The Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) also strictly directed all the ECP officials not to issue any statement to electronic or print media. Moreover, the Senate Standing Committee on Information and Broadcasting recommended a ban on the telecasting of foreign content by television channels during prime time.

During these four months, some positive actions were also taken to support media. The United Nations Action Plan against Impunity was launched in Pakistan on 7 March, seeking support efforts to promote the security and safety of journalists in the country. Pakistan is one of the five pilot countries under the UN Action Plan against Impunity.

The UN plan was launched in Islamabad by Guy Berger, the Head of the Freedom of Expression Division at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris, and elaborated by Director UNESCO-Pakistan Kozue Kay Nagata. The Plan will serve to support existing efforts to promote actions for the safety of the journalists in Pakistan by facilitating coordination and collaborative actions by various national and international media support and defence groups.

Security Agencies also arrested the former president of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi's (LeJ) Sindh chapter, who was the mastermind behind the killing of journalist Daniel Pearl, during a raid in Karachi on 17 March. The draft of the Freedom of the Information Act was also approved by the provincial cabinet in March.

According to the report, the journalists killed in the year 2013 included Tariq Aslam of the daily Pakistan, who was killed in a suicide blast at Peshawar on 16 April 2013; Mehmood Ahmed Afridi of the daily Intikhab, murdered in Kalat, Balochistan on 1 May 2013; Malik Mumtaz of Jang Group, murdered on 27 February 2013; Imran Shaikh and Saif ur Rehman of Samma TV and Mohammad Iqbal of NNI News Agency, who were killed in a suicide blast in Quetta on 10 January 2013. Three journalists suffered injuries in the bomb blast.

The media organisations and journalists also braved a ban and restrictions. The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting wrote letters to the media representative bodies and the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) asking private media to avoid carrying statements of banned outfits.

The Minister for Information and Broadcasting and the Secretary of the Ministry, along with PEMRA and the Federal Press Information Department, already held numerous meetings with the All Pakistan Newspapers Society and Pakistan Broadcasting Association, bringing home the importance of restraining the media from publishing and broadcasting these statements and hate material issued by the representatives of banned outfits as per law of the land, it added.

In this regard, PEMRA has specifically imposed financial penalties and a number of channels for violating the terms and conditions of their licenses, whereby they are supposed to observe an acceptable code of conduct as per the relevant law.

Election Commission of Pakistan officials have been barred from issuing statements to the media. Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Fakhruddin G Ebrahim has strictly directed all ECP officials not to issue any statement to electronic or print media.

Meanwhile, on 5 March the Senate Standing Committee on Information and Broadcasting recommended a ban on the telecasting of foreign content by foreign television channels, including dramas with Urdu dubbing during 7 pm to 11 pm to protect local artists and the drama industry. The Senate body also directed for rationalising showing of foreign content by 10 percent by local channels and ensuring that this percentage is shown within the 24-hour cycle and not during prime time alone.

However, the federal minister for information suggested to the committee that a joint meeting of the National Assembly and the Senate committee on Information and Broadcasting be convened so that joint recommendations could be finalised and placed before the assembly for remedial measures.

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