The International Federation of
Journalists (IFJ) joins the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) in
calling on Pakistan’s
Government to set up a high-level judicial commission, headed by a superior
court judge, to investigate the murder of journalist Musa Khankhel and ensure
his killers are brought to justice.
The call by the PFUJ, an IFJ
affiliate, is made in the interim report of a PFUJ team which recently visited Pakistan’s
troubled Swat valley to investigate the murder of Khankhel, after local
authorities failed to initiate their own inquiry.
“The IFJ is deeply disturbed by the
PFUJ’s findings, and the alarming failure of police to investigate the brutal
murder of Musa Khankhel,” IFJ Asia-Pacific
Director Jacqueline Park said.
“Pakistan’s federal and provincial
governments must pay heed to the findings and recommendations of the PFUJ
inquiry and order an immediate investigation at the highest level to ensure
Khankhel’s killers are brought to account.”
The bullet-riddled body of Khankhel,
a reporter for The NewsInternational daily and GEO News
channel, was found in the Matta sub-division of Swat several hours after he was
reported missing on February 18. He was the fourth journalist to be killed in
Swat since 2007.
At the time, Swat was a strong focus
of attention due to a controversial ceasefire agreed between the federal and
provincial governments and local militant groups, and Khankhel had gone to
Matta to report on public events addressed by cleric Maulana Sufi Mohammad.
The PFUJ reports that a five-member
police team headed by a high-ranking official did not begin its investigation into
the murder until February 27, the day the PFUJ team visited the valley in
North-West Frontier Province (NWFP). No official police investigation report
has been filed and police did not cooperate with the PFUJ inquiry.
The PFUJ found that Khankhel had
told several colleagues and friends of receiving threats in the weeks before
his murder. It is believed these threats may have come from both the local
Taliban and Pakistan’s
Hamid Mir, a well-known GEO
anchorman who was in Swat on February 18, wrote in The News on February 21 that Khankhel was especially worried about
The PFUJ found that Khankhel’s
reporting had equally enraged both warring sides in Swat. He had a “rough
temperament” and took uncompromising positions, earning the enmity of many, but
he was considered a brave reporter.
On the day he was murdered, the
Government’s Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Media Centre prevented
Khankhel and his brother Essa Khan, a journalist with The Nation, from attending a NWFP provincial minister’s press
conference dealing with the ceasefire. Both journalists were accused of being
Khankhel’s family and friends
confirmed that Khankhel had a “good relationship” with the local Taliban. He
had traveled to Matta with members of the outlawed militant group
Tehreek-e-Nafaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi, or the Movement for the Enforcement of
“He drove in the car of Sufi
Mohammad to Matta, where he attended their public meeting . . . he was present
on their stage,” ARY One reporter Shahzad Alam told the PFUJ.
Both the security agencies and the local
Taliban deny involvement in the murder.
The chief of Aaj TV’s bureau in
Swat, Fiyyaz Zafar, who also was a member of the PFUJ team, said, “One cannot
directly point finger at a person, intelligence operators or a political gang,
because Mr Khankhel has never accused anybody for his perceived murder. He was
brave and blunt. During his short stint as a TV reporter, he had made many
opponents owing to his uncompromising attitude. He would often talk about his
exploitation as a hard worker.”
The PFUJ concluded that Khankhel’s
killers could have been caught had the security forces acted quickly after the
journalist was first reported missing. However, the area in which Khankhel’s body
was recovered was not cordoned off at the time and no search operation was
The PFUJ added that some electronic
media personnel probably made a tactical error to protest the murder by leaving
the area for three days soon after Khankhel’s burial. The PFUJ said the
presence of journalists was necessary to ensure law enforcement agencies acted.
Like most other media personnel
working in Swat and other dangerous regions of Pakistan, Khankhel’s employers had
not provided him with specialist training for working in a hostile environment
such as Swat, the PFUJ said.
Only Aaj TV regularly pays its
Swat-based staffers, the PFUJ reported. Aaj TV’s Zafar said the bureau paid its
personnel well, and provided insurance and safety jackets. However, he said staff
at other channels were under-paid and on contracts, while stringers did not
receive regular salaries.
While GEO management told the PFUJ
that Khankhel was a regular employee, his colleagues said that Khankhel was not
a regular employee, and was paid little for his work. However, following the
murder, GEO said it had paid Khankhel’s family one million rupees (about USD
12,500), plus insurance of about half a million rupees. Khankhel’s brother Essa
has since taken a position as a GEO correspondent.
The PFUJ concluded that GEO
management, on learning of the threats against Khankhel, should have
transferred him from Swat.
The PFUJ’s initial recommendations
are as follows:
Owing to the special conditions in NWFP, a special fund
should be created for bereaved families of killed journalists.
Protection must be provided immediately to Khankhel’s
family, in view of prior cases where families of killed journalists have
been attacked or threatened. If it is not possible to move the family from
Swat, they should be provided with insurance cover.
Swat journalists urgently need safety training and
protection. The PFUJ should grant affiliation status to the Swat Union of
Journalists, in order to provide local media personnel with greater support
from their colleagues elsewhere.
Journalists working in Swat, the Federally Administered
Tribal Areas, Peshawar and Baluchistan need to be provided with safety training
as a priority. Journalists in urban centres also need such training in
view of increasing violent attacks in Lahore,
Islamabad and Karachi in recent years. Training to
improve their professional skill is also needed.
All media houses must provide stringers in conflict
zones with formalized regular employment and complete safety cover.
Quarterly training courses for safety and capacity building should be
The PFUJ team comprised Khyber Union
of Journalists president Mohammad Riaz, as well as Shamim Shahid, Fayyaz Zaffar
and Ziaul Haq. In view of the tensions in the area, and the subsequent
difficulties in information-gathering, the team said some of its information
required further verification and therefore was not included in its interim
further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific
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