Pakistan was the world’s deadliest country for journalists for the second year running in 2011. Ten journalists were killed in Pakistan last year, three of them in the Tribal Areas in the northwest of the country, along the border with Afghanistan. A total of 11 journalists from the Tribal Areas have been killed since 2005.
To respond the dangers, Reporters Without Borders and its Peshawar-based partner organization, the Tribal Union of Journalists, organized a series of safety training sessions for local journalists in the latter part of 2011.
Reporters from Khyber, Kurram, Bajaur, Orakzai, Mohmand, North Waziristan and South Waziristan attended the six one-day sessions that were held at the TUJ’s headquarters from 1 November to 4 December. In all, about 90 journalists were taught safety rules and the procedures they should adopt in cases of danger.
Led by Reporters Without Borders representative Iqbal Khattak, an experienced trainer, the one-days sessions also provided instruction in first-aid techniques, methods for preventing and evaluating risks, and the attitude to adopt towards one’s kidnappers in the event of abduction.
A copy of the Reporters Without Borders Handbook for Journalists, in Urdu, will also be given to all participants, thanks to the support of UNESCO Islamabad.
“The eyes of the entire world are turned to the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan and the media do not want to miss the events taking place there,” Khattak said. “This region is extremely dangerous. Foreign journalists and journalists working in other parts of Pakistan rarely come here. The local journalists are the only ones capable of covering the news in this region. Nonetheless, many of them are not sufficiently trained in dealing with the risks to which they are exposed.”
Journalists in the Tribal Areas are at the mercy of the Taliban, who try to impose favourable coverage of their “Jihad” by force. At the same time, the local authorities and armed forces find it hard to tolerate coverage of the excesses that occur in the course of the “war on terror.” Reporters also have to take account of the dangers resulting from US and Pakistani military operations against Al-Qaeda.
In his address inaugurating the first training session on 1 November, Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Jean-François Julliard referred to the many Pakistani journalists killed in recent months and the importance for Reporters Without Borders of supporting the journalists in the Tribal Areas. “This training is intended to help them to be better prepared, but the authorities also have a duty to try to ensure the safety of journalists in Pakistan,” Julliard added.
This action was made possible by the EU’s European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR), of which Reporters Without Borders is a beneficiary.