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January 1, 2008

Hopes for a better environment for journalists in 2008


January 1, 2008


After a troublesome year in 2007, journalists are hopeful of a better year for them in 2008. Many journalists look back at 2007 with worry. At least seven journalists were killed in 2007 in Pakistan, of which three died while performing their professional duties. Meanwhile, 73 journalists were injured, mostly by the police in what is described as the worst year for journalists in a decade. The media remained under government pressure through laws and threat, said Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), in a report released on Sunday.

“Unprecedented incidents of violence and curbs on media remained the hallmark of 2007,” the report said. Besides killing of journalists, media houses were attacked, raided by the police and security agencies, while freedom of the press suffered as a result of two ordinances passed against the media after the promulgation of emergency on November 3.

The PFUJ, a representative body of journalists in Pakistan, said the year witnessed “growing menace of police brutality” against journalists as some 73 journalists including photo-journalists, cameramen were badly beaten, causing serious injuries to at least 30, who suffered head injuries.

Kamil Mashadi, Deputy Bureau chief, TV One, Peshawar, became a victim of terrorism while on duty on Sunday 30 December, 2007.

On December 17, when a TV reporter, Mohammad Usman was admitted to hospital after several head injuries. Throughout the year the private news channels remained under pressure and as a result, time and again many channels were put off air, but on November 3, some 45 channels and two FM-radio stations were put off air through verbal orders of the authorities for over three weeks.

The worst violent incident against journalists took place on September 29, in Islamabad, when police attacked journalists outside the Election Commission office. At least 43 were injured, with many receiving head injuries, while on the

same day in Peshawar, the police injured four journalists during a protest against Islamabad incident. The former Chief Justice of Pakistan took suo-moto action and suspended senior police officials after looking into the evidences and videos of police brutality.

Earlier, in March, the police used baton-charge against journalists covering the rally of former chief justice of Pakistan, Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, in which 10 journalists were injured. The police were again found involved in beating journalists in Lahore and last month in Karachi, during which several journalists were injured.

The journalist’s killed in 2007 include Mehboob Khan on April 28 in Charsadda. A freelance photographer, Khan was killed in a suicide bomb attack aimed at former Interior Minister Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao.

Noor Hakim Khan of Daily Pakistan was killed on June 2 in Bajaur by a roadside bomb. Javed Khan, Markaz and DM Digital TV died on July 3 in Islamabad. He was shot in the chest and neck during crossfire between government forces and the students of Lal Masjid in Islamabad, according to media reports. Four other journalists were wounded in the clashes.

Muhammad Arif, ARY One World TV died on October 19 in Karachi. He was among more than 130 people killed in the October 19 twin bomb blast in Karachi, which took place during a political rally being held to celebrate the homecoming of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. The cameraman, who was on assignment, has left behind his wife and six children.

Zubair Ahmed Mujahid of Daily Jang died on November 23 in Mirpurkhas. He was shot dead while traveling on a motorcycle with another journalist in Mirpurkhas, Sindh, according to local news reports. He was targeted by unidentified gunmen, also traveling on motorcycle.

Local journalists believed their colleague was slain because of his investigative reporting, said Owais Aslam Ali, secretary-general of the local media group Pakistan Press Foundation.

Mujahid was known for his critical writing on a variety of issues—including alleged mistreatment of the poor by local landlords and police—in his Jang weekly column, ‘Crime and Punishment’. His coverage of alleged police brutality had led to arrests and suspensions of police officers, Ali told the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). Mujahid has left behind a wife and four sons. No arrests were immediately reported.

Finally, Rab Nawaz Chandio of Halchal died on September 10. He was killed in Khurshid Colony in Kotri, by unknown persons. However, till date his murder remains a mystery.

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