Reporters Without Borders called on the government today to urgently ensure the safety of journalists and all those working in the media after the death of Pakistani journalist Abid Naveed, of the daily Akhbar-e-Khyber, in a 11 June suicide bombing in Peshawar that killed 34 people. Eight journalists were among those wounded in the blast.
Reporters Without Borders, in conjunction with the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), the Tribal Union of Journalists (TUJ), and the Khyber Union of Journalists (KhUJ), call the Pakistani authorities to take all necessary measures to ensure safety for media professionals.
The organisation warned that if nothing was done, “self-censorship, already latent,” would arise, paralysing the media, and “the whole country will pay the consequences.”
"The horrific violence and repeated attacks throughout the country, and especially Peshawar, contribute to an atmosphere of terror for all those working in the media. Journalists can no longer work without risking their lives on every street corner.
"The authorities cannot just condemn the attack and promise to find the culprits. Their failure to find and punish the killers of six journalists who have died this year shows the government has not taken steps to ensure that justice works.
“President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani must make it a national priority to protect journalists, who are special targets in all these attacks. The authorities must increase security in vulnerable areas, react faster to threats to the media and investigate attacks on and executions of journalists.”
The media freedom organisation reiterated the “urgency” of a system of protection for all the country’s media as the number of attacks soared and the media were threatened from all sides. “Each incident paralyses journalists a little more and they are forced to work from home or refuse to report on a topic that might bring them reprisals.”
It also recalled a fatwa issued by Pakistani imam Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri in March last year saying that those responsible for the attacks were enemies of Islam, that violence had no place in Islamic teaching and that nothing could justify it.
The 11 June Peshawar attack began with a small initial blast in a restaurant toilet which drew journalists to the scene. Soon afterwards, a suicide-bomber arrived on a motorcycle and set off another explosion, killing 34 people and wounding 100 others.
The eight journalists wounded were Saifullah Gul (bureau chief) and Imran Bukhari (reporter) of Dunya TV, Barkatullah Marwat, sub-editor of The News, a young trainee called Shafiullah, Geo TV reporter Qazi Fazlullah, AVT Khyber TV station cameraman Ali Hashim and two journalists from the daily Akhbar-e-Khyber, Sheheryar and Riaz. Seven were not badly hurt but trainee Shafiullah is still in critical condition at the special burns hospital in Wah Cantt.
Naveed, who was killed in the blast, survived a suicide-attack at the Peshawar Press Club in December 2009 that killed four people and wounded 17.
Several editors have asked their journalists to work from home and not come to their offices, which have been either closed for a few weeks or indefinitely. Some are thinking of moving premises to safer parts of the city.
The latest attack makes Pakistan, already in 151st position among 178 countries in the2010 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index, now the most deadly country for journalists in 2011. Six journalists have been killed there so far this year and 17 since the beginning of 2010.
Reporters Without Borders personally handed Prime Minister Gilani, when he was in Paris on 5 May this year, a report on media freedom violations in his country and stressed the need to ensure the safety of all media workers.