Reporters Without Borders is concerned about the fate of Ayub Tareen, a correspondent for the BBC’s Urdu service in Quetta, the capital of the southwestern province of Balochistan, who was forced to leave the city for an undisclosed location after he was threatened by the Baloch Liberation Front (BLF) on 21 July.
“We take these threats very seriously and urge the local authorities to improve the safety of those who work in the media,” the press freedom organization said.
“We support the call by the Balochistan Union of Journalists for dialogue and mediation to settle disputes between the media and the various interest groups in the region.
“Unless the authorities take firm action against those who attack the media, and deploy effective measures to ensure the safety of journalists, we fear there will be no significant progress in the coming weeks.”
Tareen told Reporters Without Borders yesterday he was forced to leave Quetta after the BLF accused him of partisan reporting on its political activities and threatened him.
Several Quetta-based news organizations received a statement from BLF spokesman Basham Baluch issued via the news agency Pakistan News Network International saying it was boycotting the BBC’s Urdu service because of the “partial attitude” of Tareen and adding: “We inform high-ups of BBC to take notice of their correspondent’s partial behavior."
He went on: "Otherwise, we would be forced to take strict action."
The Balochistan Union of Journalists also condemned the threats, describing attempts by the BLF to influence coverage of its activities as “extremely undemocratic, non-political and immoral”.
Tareen was the target of similar threats from the BLF last year, when he was also forced to leave Quetta temporarily.
Six journalists have been killed this year in Pakistan, which is ranked in 151st of 179 countries in the 2011-2012 World Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders.
On 28 May, Vsh TV reporter Abdul Qadir Hajizai died of his wounds after he was shot by two men on a motorcycle in Basima, in Washuk District. Balochistan was classified as one of the world’s 10 most dangerous places for journalists by Reporters Without Borders last year.