OPC Highlights Threat to Journalists in Pakistan's Swat Valley -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

OPC Highlights Threat to Journalists in Pakistan’s Swat Valley

May 21, 2009

H.E Asif Ali Zahari
President
Office of the President
Awan-E-Sadar
Constitution Avenue
Islamabad
Islamic Republic of Pakistan
Fax: (011.92.51.2) 920.3938

Your Excellency:

We wish you great success in your campaign against the Taliban in the northwest. And we ask you to direct the military to give some protection to journalists in the area to allow them to inform Pakistani citizens about the truth of what is happening.

We realize that the worst atrocities committed against journalists have been committed by the Taliban. There is little your government can do about that, other than defeating the Taliban. However, journalists in the Swat valley complain they are coming under increasing pressure from both sides to write what each side wants to hear. Since journalists in the area are independent-minded, this has created great danger for those who report the news.

Ghulam Farooq, editor of Shamal, the valley’s most widely read newspaper, is reported as saying, “The Taliban commanders were furious at being described as rebels than the Mujahideen. And the soldiers wanted the media on their side in the battle against insurgents.” And according to Mohammed Riaz, presidents of the Khyber Union of Journalists, “The military has clamped down on journalists covering the operations in Buner.”

One reporter was killed last autumn by fire from soldiers, which may have been accidental. The sister of a journalist was killed by military fire directed at the front door of the family’s home. More recently, journalists covering operations in Buner have come under fire from the military. A car carrying an Al-Jazeera TV crew was riddled with bullets — and the crew, luckily unharmed — was detained by the military and then released.

It is never easy to ensure the safety of reporters in a war zone. Still, we urge your government to take what steps it can to make sure journalists can report the facts of what is happening in the contested areas. The people there are panicked. They do not know what is happening, or what to believe. Suppressing the news does more to create panic and confusion. Journalists reporting freely will be part of the solution. But right now, it is hard for journalists not to join in the panic and confusion.

Respectfully yours,

Jeremy Main
Kevin McDermott
Freedom of the Press Committee

cc:

H E. Hussain Haqqani
Ambassador-designate of Pakistan to the USA
Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan
3517 International Court, NW
Washington, DC 20008
Fax: (202) 666.1465

Mr. Mian Nawaz Sharif
Leader
Pakistan Muslim League
1 Model Town
Lahore
Pakistan

H.E. Muhammed Ali Durrani
Minister of Information
c/o Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan
3517 International Court, NW
Washington, DC 20008

H.E. Anne W. Patterson
U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan
Embassy of the United States of America
Diplomatic Enclave, Ramna 5
Islamabad
Pakistan

Ambassador Abdullah Hussain Haroon
Permanent Representative
Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan to the United Nations
8 East 65th Street
New York, NY 10021
Fax: (212) 744.7348

Mr. Abbas Nasir
Editor-in-Chief
Dawn TV
Haroon House, Dr. Ziauddin Ahmed Road
Karachi 74200
Pakistan
Fax: (011.92.21) 569.3995
webmaster@dawn.com

Rana Qaisar
Islamabad Resident Editor
Daily Times
Aquhbar Market, Moti Plaza
Murree Road
Rawalpindi
Pakistan
ranakaisar@hotmail.com

M.A.Zubari
Editor-in-chief
Business Recorder
Recorder House
531 Business Recorder Road
Karachi 74550
Pakistan
edkhi@br-mail.com
Source: Overseas Press Club of America (OPC)
Date:5/25/2009