Pakistan: journalists under pressure
Matt Malone: in the country's simmering civil conflicts, reporters are under pressure from all sides
13 Nov 09

This is a guest post by Matt Malone

On 10 November, two journalists, Rab Nawaz Joya and Javed Chanwal Chandor were detained by police in the Okara district of the north-eastern province of Punjab. Although they were arrested on charges of theft and fraud, it has been alleged that the true reason behind their arrests is linked to their efforts to gather more information on Amjad Kasab, the only surviving participant in the November 2008 attacks in the Indian city of Mumbai.

Reports have highlighted the difficulties and growing dangers faced by Pakistan’s journalists and media workers in performing their everyday duties. The dangers are particularly acute in the “tribal areas” of North and South Waziristan, where the Pakistani army has been waging a sustained offensive against Taliban insurgents since 17 October, codenamed “Path of Salvation”. Reporters sans Frontières has indicated that journalists attempting to monitor the escalating conflict have faced severe restriction from the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) department, who have pressured journalists to rely solely on official sources in their reports. At the same time, RSF has claimed that the Pakistani press have only been permitted access to Waziristan to confirm military victories, with very little coverage being given to the fate of civilians.

Meanwhile, the Pakistani media faces similar restrictions in Baluchistan, where an equally volatile yet less reported conflict is being waged between the armed forces, paramilitaries and armed separatist groups. A report from the International Federation of Journalists highlights the risks inherent in reporting from the province, which has earned the nickname “Taliban Central”. In a case that exemplifies the dangers facing media workers, Chisti Mujahid, a senior reporter with the weekly Akbar-e-Jehaan newspaper, was murdered in Quetta in February 2008. Almost two years later, no effective investigation into his death has been conducted.