For the attention of:
Honourable Mr Asif Ali
Islamic Republic of Pakistan
c/- Office of the Secretary General
Mr M. Salman Faruqui
Fax: +92 – 51
May 26, 2009
Dear President Zardari,
Protection of Journalists in NWFP, Pakistan
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and Reporters Without
Borders (RSF) respectfully seek your urgent intervention to ensure the protection
of three senior journalists in Peshawar, North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), whose lives may
be in immediate danger.
The IFJ and RSF are alarmed to learn that several senior journalists based
in Peshawar and
NWFP have been named on a “hit list” by individuals grouped under the banner of
Taliban. The list reportedly names Sohail Qalandar, resident editor of
the Daily Express and vice-president
of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), an IFJ affiliate; Iqbal
Khattak, bureau chief of The Daily Times; and Peshawar Press Club
president Shamim Shahid, bureau chief of The Nation; as well as several other journalists.
We received information about threats against these three
journalists following the posting of a pamphlet outside media offices in
Mingora on 28 April 2009 warning that journalists would be punished under Sharia
law if they were perceived to report negatively about militant groups.
The three named journalists are well-known in their communities and
internationally for their commitment to their work, even as they risk grave
threats to the safety of themselves and their families. The IFJ and RSF are extremely
concerned that their lives may be in danger.
We respectfully request that you exert your authority as President of
Pakistan to take urgent action to condemn any suggestion or threat of attacks against
these three men and other media personnel in Pakistan, and make clear your
concerns for their safety.
We further request that you direct your government, its offices and provincial
authorities in NWFP to take all necessary action to ensure the security of these
three men and all media personnel in NWFP and other areas of conflict in Pakistan.
The IFJ and RSF remind the Government of Pakistan of its obligations as a
signatory to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949 and to the 1997 Additional
Protocol on the Protection of Victims of Non-International Armed Conflicts
(Protocol II) to ensure the protection of journalists as civilians. Article 13
of Protocol II states: “The civilian population as such,
as well as individual civilians,
shall not be the object of attack. Acts or threats of violence the primary
purpose of which is to spread terror among the civilian population are
In addition, we draw your attention to United Nations Security Council
Resolution 1738, which was adopted in 2006 and explicitly stresses the civilian
status of journalists reporting in war zones and crisis areas within national
borders. The resolution stipulates: “… that all parties to an armed conflict
comply fully with the obligations applicable to them under international law
related to the protection of civilians in armed conflict,
including journalists, media
professionals and associated personnel.”
Therefore, international law emphasizes the responsibility of Pakistan’s
Government to remedy the threats made against our three above mentioned
colleagues, as individual journalists and as civilians who are conducting their
work in an environment of non-international armed conflict.
The role of Pakistan’s
journalists and media workers is more important than ever in gathering and
conveying impartial and accurate information about the conflict and the
humanitarian crisis in NWFP. It is imperative that journalists and media
workers are able to conduct their important work with the maximum protection
and provision of safety measures available.
You will be aware that Pakistan has gained an unenviable
reputation as one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists
and media workers. Twelve journalists and media workers have been killed in Pakistan since
the beginning of 2008. Very many others have been – and continue to be – assaulted
and threatened in an effort to silence reporting on matters of national and
The IFJ and RSF understand that scare tactics such as hit
lists are commonly used by militant groups in various districts of Pakistan in an
effort to block or distort media coverage of their activities. The risk of serious
harm for the named journalists is very real and authorities must take action to
address these threats.
Additionally, more than 100 journalists and their families are among the
thousands of people who have fled areas around Swat to Peshawar and surrounding towns in recent days.
The absence of media personnel in the conflict zone, and the extreme
difficulties in gathering information from the region, are a matter of
international concern and pose serious ramifications for the thousands of
internally displaced who are now struggling to access emergency relief.
Again, we respectfully request that you use your authority as President to
act on the grave concerns held by the IFJ and RSF for the welfare of our
colleagues in Pakistan,
including Iqbal Khattak, Shamim
Shahid, and Sohail Qalandar, in the spirit of serving the best interests of all
people in Pakistan.
International Federation of
Reporters Without Borders
Mr Farhat Ullah Babar
for the President
Mr Syed Yousaf Raza Gillani
Minister, Islamic Republic
Mr Qamar Zaman Kiara
for Information and Broadcasting,
Mr Rehman A Malik
Mr Owais Ahmed Ghani
+92-91-9210087 / +92-91-9210899
Mr Amir Haider Khan Hoti
Mian Iftikhar Hussain,
for Information, NWFP