Published on 16 April 2010

Reporters Without Borders is appalled by the death of Samaa TV cameraman Malik Arif in a suicide bombing at a Quetta hospital today in which five other journalists – Noor Elahi Bugti of Samaa TV, Salman Ashraf of Geo TV, Fareed Ahmed of Dunya TV, Khalil Ahmed of Express TV and Malik Sohail of Aaj TV – were injured. The journalists were at the hospital to film a gathering by Shiites in support of a Shiite businessman who had been the target of a murder attempt. Seven other people were killed in the bombing, which bore the hallmarks of a Sunni jihadist action.

“When all the businessman’s friends and all the journalists had gathered at the hospital, a suicide bomber came up, opened fire and then blew himself up in the middle of the crowd,” Quetta-based journalist Malik Siraj told Reporters Without Borders. A journalist for 30 years and father of four children, Malik Arif was the second journalist to be killed in Pakistan since the start of this year. One the eve of his death, he recorded a message for the TV station stressing the vital importance of crime reporters.

“It is playing with death to work as a journalist in Bajaur,” a journalist in this Tribal Area told Reporters Without Borders after yesterday’s attempted abduction of one of his colleagues, Imran Khan, in Khar, a town in Bajaur. Khan and his sister were both seriously injured when resisting the kidnap attempt by armed militants.

“We firmly condemn targeted violence against journalists in the Tribal Areas,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The Taliban leaders must give a clear undertaking not to target journalists while the army must provide the media with better security guarantees in both the Tribal Areas and Balochistan, where the situation is currently worsening.”

Around 10 gunmen tried to abduct Khan from his home in Khar. Witnesses said they managed to escape “purely by chance.” They are currently hospitalized in Peshawar.

Their father, Muhammad Ibrahim Khan, who was also a journalist, was fatally shot on 22 May 2008 as he was returning from interviewing a Taliban spokesman. Several journalists from Bajaur said they thought the people responsible for their father’s murder were also behind today’s kidnap attempt.

Reacting to the allegations, Azam Tariq, a spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban, accused the “pro-American media of spreading disinformation about the Taliban.”

The army claims to have been in control of Bajaur since last month, but several journalists have recently left the region after being threatened by insurgents. “We receive threats, sometimes death threats,” Reporters Without Borders was told by a journalist who has stayed. “The government is aware of this but no action has been taken to make us feel safer.”

In February, insurgent threats forced state-owned Radio Pakistan to stop retransmitting Pashto-language programmes produced by the US government’s Voice of America radio station. The Taliban had threatened to blow up Radio Pakistan’s installations if it continued to broadcast “American propaganda.”

VOA has launched its own Pashto-language station, Deeva Radio, targeted at the inhabitants of Pakistan’s Tribal Areas. Another Pashto-language station, Shamal (The Torch), has been started by Radio Free Europe, which is funded by the US congress.

A Taliban group in the Orakzai Tribal Area threatened to take reprisals against Samaa TV, a Pakistani station, in February after it reportedly broadcast footage of a rebel chief inflicting corporal punishment on a young man who had not let his beard grow.

Meanwhile, an armed group in the southwestern province of Balochistan that is opposed to the province’s independence has been bombarding the press club in Khuzdar with threatening letters and phone calls. Called Baloch Musallah Difah Tanzeem (Baloch Armed Defence Group), it has threatened to kill journalists who continue to cover the activities of the provinces pro-independence parties. Gunmen have also visited the press club several times. The group began drawing attention to itself at the start of 2010 by its threats against the press.

The press club’s president, Khan Muhammad, told Reporters Without Borders that solidarity demonstrations were held today in several of the province’s towns. The media in Balochistan are caught in the crossfire between the security services, which are the allies of the jihadi groups, and the Baloch armed organisations.

Pakistan was ranked 159th out of 175 countries in the 2009 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.

http://en.rsf.org/reporter-killed-in-quetta-16-04-2010,37038.html

Advertisements