The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is shocked and horrified at the murder of Musa Khankhel, a reporter for The News International daily and Geo News channel, in the Matta sub-division of the Swat valley in Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province (NWFP).
According to the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), an IFJ affiliate, Musa Khankhel went missing on February 18 in the Matta area, where he had gone to report on a series of public events addressed by a senior cleric, Maulana Sufi Mohammad. His bullet-riddled body was found in the area a few hours later.
In an apparently unrelated incident on February 17, the Press Club in Wana, in the South Waziristan tribal area, was destroyed in a bomb attack. No casualties were reported, although the IFJ is concerned that the attack on a meeting place for journalists appears to be a calculated move to dent professional morale.
Musa Khankhel is the fourth journalist killed in Swat since 2007, and the second journalist to be killed in Pakistan this year. Across Pakistan, 17 journalists have been killed since 2007, mostly in targeted attacks, although some have died while covering hazardous events.
Swat has been a focus of attention for journalists in recent days after federal and provincial governments arrived at a ceasefire agreement with local militant groups.
The PFUJ informs the IFJ that the day before his murder, Musa Khankhel and his brother Isa, a journalist with the daily The Nation, were prevented from attending a press conference dealing with the ceasefire process, addressed by a provincial NWFP minister.
“The IFJ condemns the murder of Musa Khankhel, an accomplished young reporter, and the attack on the Wana Press Club,” IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park said.
“We are horrified that the supposed ceasefire in the NWFP has begun on such an ominous note for journalists in the area and extend all solidarity to journalists joining PFUJ-led national protests today.”
The IFJ continues to be alarmed at the extreme dangers faced by media personnel in the tribal areas and NWFP, including Swat, which has become the theatre of an intense conflict between Pakistan state forces and fundamentalist militias.
On February 8, the Peshawar bureau chief of Royal TV, a private news channel, was kidnapped as he was returning from the valley. Noorul Hasan’s captors held him for three days and questioned him on his interview with the leader of one of the fundamentalist militias.
“The IFJ notes that Pakistan’s political leadership has reacted sharply to the murder of Musa Khankhel. We welcome their concern and call on them to deliver on their promise that this crime will be investigated and the perpetrators brought to justice,” Park said.