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Young reporter dies from bomb injuries, media hounded throughout country

Young reporter dies from bomb injuries, media hounded throughout country

Published on Saturday 18 June 2011. Updated on Tuesday 21 June 2011.
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Reporters Without Borders is saddened to learn that Shafiullah Khan, a young journalist who was badly wounded in a double bombing on 11 June in Peshawar, died this morning from his injuries in a military hospital in Wah, a garrison town northwest of Islamabad.

“We reiterate our support for journalists who are the victims of terrorist attacks in Pakistan,” Reporters Without Borders said. “We hope the Pakistani authorities will respond without further delay to the media community’s request for the restoration of security conditions that allow its members to work normally.

“If the prime minister was capable of reacting quickly by appointing a supreme court judge to carry out an exhaustive investigation into Saleem Shahzad’s death, he should be able to do the same for the Peshawar bombings. Steps must also be taken promptly to provide financial compensation, above all for medical bills and material losses.”

The double bombing at Khyber Market, in a military area of Peshawar, left a toll of at least 40 dead and 100 wounded. Another journalist, Abid Naveed, was among those killed outright by the blast while eight other reporters were among the wounded.

Khan, who was from Palangzai, a village in North Waziristan, had recently completely a master’s degree in journalism at Gomal University in Dera Ismail Khan.

Yousaf Ali, the secretary-general of the Khyber Union of Journalists, described the tragic circumstances of his death to Reporters Without Borders. “Shafiullah wanted to pursue a career in the media. He had just joined News International’s Peshawar bureau as a trainee. He had started just a week ago.”

The site of the 11 June bombings is just a few metres from the News International office. After the first bomb went off, Khan rushed to the scene to cover the story and was badly burned by the second, more powerful bomb. He was taken to a burns unit in Wah Cant hospital for treatment.

Violence and threats against journalists, and impunity

Reporters Without Borders meanwhile welcomes recent developments in the case of Saleem Shahzad, the Islamabad-based investigative reporter whose body was found on 31 May. The federal government yesterday appointed a judicial commission led by supreme court justice Mian Saqib Nisar to carry out the investigation into the murder. The commission has been told to submit its findings in six weeks.

The organization reiterates its condemnation of the violence to which journalists are exposed. The dangers are growing throughout the country, as several recent cases show. The BBC’s Pakistan correspondent, Ali Salman, had to withdraw on 14 June from Mianwali, in the eastern province of Punjab, while trying to cover the Chashma nuclear power station’s harmful effects on local population. After being prevented from visiting residents allegedly suffering from skin ailments, he was followed by the ISI, a powerful intelligence agency, on his return to Lahore.

In an account of his abortive expedition to Reporters Without Borders, Salman quoted a senior government official as telling him: “You had better return to Lahore, your life is in danger.” Salman added: “Five minutes after arriving in Mianwali, the ISI alerted the local police, the local administration and other members of the security services in order to have me expelled from the town.”

In separate incidents, soldiers threatened to kill Abdul Salam Soomro of the Sindh-based TV station Awaz and freelance photo-journalist Jamal Tarakey after they filmed and photographed violence against civilians. Soomro had filmed paramilitaries shoot a detained youth in Karachi. Tarakey had filmed soldiers at a checkpoint in Quetta, in the southwestern province of Baluchistan, shoot five foreigners who had been wrongly identified as Chechens on a suicide mission.

In Sindh province, journalists working for foreign media are being urged not to visit press clubs in Karachi, regarded as likely Taliban targets. In an internal memo, an international news agency has wanted its reporters to keep away from press clubs in all of Pakistan’s major cities.

Reporters Without Borders is currently the world’s deadliest country for the media, with eight journalists killed since the start of this year and 18 killed since the start of 2010.

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