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Pakistan 23 September 2004

Journalists still barred from South Waziristan

Reporters Without Borders today condemned a continuing ban on journalists entering the South Waziristan Tribal Area adjoining the border with Afghanistan, although the Pakistani interior minister undertook a week ago to let journalists into the area.

"Despite the government’s promises, the Pakistani armed forces maintain an unacceptable de facto news blackout in South Waziristan," the organisation said.

A group of journalists consisting of Sailab Mehsud, the president of the Tribal Union Journalists, Alamgir, Anwar Masood and Irfan Siddiqui of ARY TV, and Sheikh Rehmatullah, Irfan Khan and Shaukat Khattak of Geo TV was denied entry to the Tribal Areas at the Jandola checkpoint on 21 September. After being turned back, they staged a protest sit-in at the checkpoint for several hours.

At a news conference on 16 September, interior minister Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao had promised that the government would allow Pakistani and foreign journalists to enter South Waziristan’s Wana area.

Since March, it has been virtually impossible for the news media to cover Pakistan’s military operations against Al-Qaeda and the Taliban in South Waziristan.

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