Appeal to Government to Protect Targeted Journalists in Pakistan

 

For the attention of:

 

Honourable Mr Asif Ali

Zardari

President

Islamic Republic of Pakistan

 

c/- Office of the Secretary General

Mr  M. Salman Faruqui

Fax: +92 – 51

– 9207458

 

                                                                                                                                    May 26, 2009

Dear President Zardari,

 

 

RE:

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

prohibited.”

 

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

international significance.

 

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.

 

Yours respectfully,

 


 

Aidan

White

General Secretary

International Federation of

Journalists

 

 

Jean-François Julliard

General Secretary

Reporters Without Borders


CC to:

 

Mr Farhat Ullah Babar

Spokesman

for the President

Fax:

+92-51-9204974                                             

farhat.babar@president.gov.pk 

 

Mr Syed Yousaf Raza Gillani

Prime

Minister, Islamic Republic

of Pakistan.

c/- Mrs

Nargis Sethi        

Acting

Principal Secretary

Fax:

+92-51-9214172

pspm@pmsectt.gov.pk

nsethi@pmsectt.gov.pk

pmmediaoffice@gmail.com

 

Mr Qamar Zaman Kiara

Minister

for Information and Broadcasting,

 

Mr Rehman A Malik

Minister

for Interior

 

Mr Owais Ahmed Ghani

Governor

NWFP

Fax:

+92-91-9210087 / +92-91-9210899

 

Mr Amir Haider Khan Hoti

Chief

Minister, NWFP

 

Mian Iftikhar Hussain,

Minister

for Information, NWFP

Fax:

+92-91-9213491