Press Freedom Under Fire in Pakistani Military Offensive

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the global organisation representing over 500,000 journalists worldwide, has expressed concern over the Pakistani military’s exclusion of media personnel attempting to report on its current operations on the Afghan border in South Waziristan.


Christopher Warren, President of the IFJ, today said that a complete press blackout was unacceptable and asked the Pakistani military to admit journalists into conflict areas to cover the fighting that has been taking place.


The Pakistani Army began an offensive against Islamist fighters, some believed to be linked to Al-Qaeda, in early March. Since then it has imposed major restrictions on journalists attempting to report on the fighting.


The latest violations against the freedom of the press took place on 12 June, as the military renewed its operations on the northern border. Four journalists were arrested after entering exclusion zones. They are: Allah Noord Wazir of The Nation, Amir Nawab Khan of The Frontier Post, Mujeebur Rehman of the Khabrian and a fourth reporter who was not identified.


In addition, a stringer for the BBC World Service was told by a local official from South Waziristan that journalists attempting to enter the region would face “serious problems” after he reported the news of the exclusions on air. A military spokesman, General Shaukat Sultan of Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), said that the exclusions had been arranged for “security reasons”.


“The Pakistani Army should respect the rights of journalists to report on its operations. It is essential that the actions of the Army is subject to international observation,” Warren said.


“It is essential that the national and international press is able to report on such a vital event. We remind you of the importance of maintaining freedom of expression for Pakistan and ask that you work towards ensuring that journalists can freely report on your country’s affairs,” Warren said.


In a letter to the President of Pakistan, General Pervez Musharraf, Warren expressed the importance of maintaining freedom of expression for Pakistan and asked the government to ensure the continued survival and success of the free press.


For further information, please contact Christopher Warren on +61 411 757 668




The IFJ has protested to the President of Pakistan, General Pervez Musharraf, in the following letter:


24 June 2004


General Pervez Musharraf

President and Chief Executive of Pakistan

Via Email: CE@pak.gov.pk



Dear General Musharraf,


The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the global organisation of journalists representing over 500,000 journalists worldwide, has expressed concern over the Pakistani Army’s restriction of the press in conflict areas in South Waziristan, and the subsequent arrest of four journalists who were covering the fighting.


As the Army renewed its operations on the northern border on 12 June, four journalists were arrested after entering exclusion zones. They are: Allah Noord Wazir of The Nation, Amir Nawab Khan of The Frontier Post, Mujeebur Rehman of the Khabrian and a fourth reporter who was not identified.


In addition, a stringer for the BBC World Service was told by a local official from South Waziristan that journalists attempting to enter the region would face “serious problems” after he reported the news of the exclusions on air.


The complete press blackout which has been in place since military operations against Islamist fighters begun in March is unacceptable. The Pakistani Army should respect the rights of journalists to report on its operations.


It is essential that the national and international press is able to report on such a vital event. We remind you of the importance of maintaining freedom of expression for Pakistan and ask that you work towards ensuring that journalists can freely report on your country’s affairs.


Yours sincerely,



Christopher Warren

President, IFJ




Recommended action:


Send appeals:


  • Urging the Government of Pakistan to stop arresting journalists in conflict areas.

  • Urging the Government of Pakistan to give access to journalists attempting to report on conflict areas.

  • Remind the Government of Pakistan to ensure press freedom in Pakistan.



    Appeals:


    General Pervez Musharraf

    President and Chief Executive of Pakistan

    Via Email: CE@pak.gov.pk


    Sheikh Rashid Ahmed

    Federal Minister Information and Broadcasting

    Via Email: infominister@infopak.gov.pk



    For more information please contact IFJ Asia at ifj-asia@ifj-asia.org

    Please copy appeals to the IFJ Asia Office at ifj-asia@ifj-asia.org