Reporters Without Borders condemns the brief arrest by security forces in the tribal zone of North Waziristan of three journalists who were trying to cover clashes between the Pakistani security forces and the Taliban around Miran Shah.
Those arrested on 6 March were Haroon Rasheed, of the Urdu-language service of the BBC World Service, Haji Mujtaba, a stringer for Reuters, and Inam-ur-Rahman, a contributor to the APTN news agency.
Officials on 7 March also seized cassette tapes belonging to Inam-ur-Rahman.
Reporters Without Borders is also very worried by persistent threats against journalists in the region from some mullahs and jihadists in North Waziristan.
Media banned from Bajaur Agency tribal area
Reporters Without Borders today condemned a government ban on all journalists, including Pakistanis, from going to the Bajaur Agency tribal area (60 km north of Peshawar). Haroon Rashid, of the Urdu section of the BBC World Service, a reporter for the Pakistani TV station AVT khyber, Mehmood Jan Babarand cameraman Waheed-ur-Rehman were today ordered by police to return to Peshawar when they tried to enter the area to continue investigating the effect of the 13 January US military bombing there. The journalists briefly protested and accused the government of trying to silence the media. Information minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmad said the tribal area was under control of the army, which refused to comment on the matter.
Two journalists arrested while covering aftermath
Reporters Without Borders today condemned the arrest of Haroon Rashid of the BBC World Service’s Urdu-language section and Iqbal Khattak of Pakistan’s Daily Times in the Bajaur Agency part of the Tribal Areas on 14 January while covering reactions to a US airstrike on a village that was supposedly being visited by Al-Qaeda No. 2 Ayman al-Zawahiri.
A total of 18 people were reportedly killed in the airstrike but not, apparently, Zawahiri. The authorities on 14 January also confiscated a video-cassette from a cameraman working for the US television news agency APTN, who had just filmed in the village.
"Under what laws were the two Pakistani journalists arrested and the video-cassette seized," Reporters Without Borders asked. "After a news blackout lasting for months, the civilian and military authorities had at last allowed journalists free access to the Tribal Areas. But when something embarrassing takes place, the press is clearly no longer welcome there."
Rashid and Khattak were arrested while taking photos of soldiers on the streets of Khar, which is the capital of the Bajaur Agency and lies 60 km north of Peshawar. They were taken to the office of Fahim Wazir, the area’s political administrator, who told them their reporting was contributing to insecurity in the region.
The two journalists refused to let Wazir check the reports they planned to send. Before letting them go, he threatened to ban them from this tribal Area.
Meanwhile, there is still no word of Hayatullah Khan, a reporter for the Urdu-language daily Ausaf and photographer for the European Press Photo Agency, who has been missing since 5 December 2005, a few days after he produced evidence that contradicted the official account of the death of a leading Arab member of Al-Qaeda, Hamza Rabia, in the North Waziristan section of the Tribal Areas. Rabia was killed by a US missile.